Are you pocket dialing 911?

Accidental 911 calls are a burden and need to be stemmed, a police campaign says.

The RCMP 911 Island District Operations Communications Centers (OCC) located in Victoria, Nanaimo and Courtenay are campaigning to reduce the huge volume of accidental emergency calls they receive on a daily basis.

These facilities offer centralized service to a combined population in excess of 350,000 people covering 95 per cent of Vancouver Island, outlying islands, and Powell River. They have been experiencing an increasing trend in unintended emergency calls that in turn remove valuable time and resources off the road from attending true emergency cases.

Last year, the RCMP Island District OCCs received a total of 162,945  9-1-1 calls, of which 14,825 were abandoned. Over half (61 per cent) of those abandoned calls were generated from mobile devices, as more and more people are primarily using wireless technology as means of communication.

More recently, between Jan. 1 and April 30 this year, the RCMP communication centers on Vancouver Island received 5,252 abandoned calls with 63 per cent of those coming from mobile devices. That’s an average of 44 calls per day in those four months alone that requires operators and police officers to track down and verify for emergency.

The manager of the Courtenay OCC, Steve Cox says, “In that span of four months in the first quarter of this year, we calculated that just between 96-130 hours were spent by operators in locating and verifying abandoned calls. That time is exponentially longer for police officers on the road to follow up on abandoned calls.”

Operators and officers alike are asking the public to please stay on the line if you accidentally call 9-1-1 and simply tell the operator there is no emergency. The operator will appreciate you saving them the time. Additionally, pick up the phone when you receive a call back after accidentally dialing the emergency line. This will avoid having a police officer knock on your door.

Other very useful tips to eliminate accidental dialing of 9-1-1 include:

• Removing your mobile phones and wireless devices from your pockets while you are driving or in a car to avoid accidental ‘pocket dialing’.

• Locking your cellular phone when not in use, to avoid accidently ‘pocket dialing’.

• Removing 9-1-1 from your programmed speed dials.

• If you realize you have dialed 9-1-1 by accident, please call back to let an operator know there is no emergency.

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