Oregon’s 911 system has seen a 40% jump in accidental calls over the past year.
New smartphone technology makes it increasingly easier to call 911. Frank Kuchta with the Oregon Department of Emergency Management said that’s a good thing. But accidental calls are through the roof.
“This most recent uptick has been tied to the Android SOS features that they’ve recently enabled in some of their phone manufacturer operating systems,” Kuchta said.
“But this is certainly not new. Apple as you know has had crash detection over the last couple of years.”
Those features have become more commonplace in recent years, and they can come in handy in an emergency. Callers can discreetly call 911 if they are victims of a crime or in an undesirable situation.
But the crash detection feature calls authorities when the phone detects sudden movement in a crash and will automatically sound an alarm and start a countdown. Users are able to cancel the call, but if they don’t cancel, the phone calls 911 anyway.
Kuchta asks that anyone who has misdialed stay on the line to let dispatchers know it was a mistake.
“Each one of these calls ties up a call taker, who must call the number back to ensure there’s no emergency,” Kuchta explained.
“If those callbacks are unanswered, an officer must locate the caller and check on their welfare. This ties up emergency responders who are then unavailable for actual emergency calls.”
The state has tips on what to do after an accidental 911 call.
- If you do misdial, don’t hang up. Stay on the line, let the telecommunicator know it was an accident, and answer the questions they may have.
- If you do hang up, the telecommunicator will call you back. Answer the call and explain what happened.
- Deactivated cellphones will still call 911 if the phone turns on. Don’t let kids play with deactivated cellphones unless the battery is removed or dead.
- Teach kids about 911. It’s not a game when a child is calling 911 repeatedly and hanging up or making false statements to the telecommunicator.
- Turn off the automatic dialing setting so your phone doesn’t accidentally dial 911.
- Place your phone on sleep mode when you put it in your pocket.
Emergency settings can be changed or turned off, but that carries its own problems.