ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE
COUNTY OF WELLINGTON - Year to date Wellington County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has received more than 1,965 accidental emergency 9-1-1 calls resulting in 1,965 times officers are dispatched to events that require nothing but education of the phone user.
Everyone knows 9-1-1 is reserved for the "time-is-of-the-essence", emergency "life and death" call. But did you know that of the estimated 18,083 calls-for-service, 10 per cent of them amounted to non-intended use of the public resource? We're not talking about 9-1-1 misuses like reporting a historic fraud or minor vehicle collision that could have been called-in on the non-emergency 888-310-1122 line. We're talking about 9-1-1 misdials, 9-1-1 hang-ups and 9-1-1 'butt-dials'. Calls that meant nothing, zero, not worth the electronic signals that they were sent on. Now if you're curious as to how many 9-1-1 calls Wellington County OPP received, it's 7,417. That means a quarter of the high-priority calls that came to us were accidental.
Each time a 9-1-1 call is placed police need to ensure that there isn't an emergency. History has taught us that not everyone who calls 9-1-1 for help is able to speak-up and tell the OPP call taker what is wrong. We must ensure that those cries for help do not go unheard. Each 9-1-1 misdial requires a cruiser, two officers and a dispatcher to clear it, erroring on the side safety.
Accidental 9-1-1 calls have two consistent variables; a user and a lack of information. Did you know that an old inactive phone can still call 9-1-1? Do you know that a lot of the accidental calls are a result of someone placing their phone in a cup-holder or pocket, triggering buttons that dial 9-1-1? Other common contributors are users attempting to dial international phone numbers or using the office phone (hitting "9" to get an outside line but then following it with 1 for long distance). These accidental dials are becoming costly and divert valuable public resources away from where they should be.
9-1-1 hang-ups/pocket dials are not the exclusive method in which OPP receives calls in error. Security alarm failures also waste resources. But unlike 9-1-1 misdial, municipalities often recover costs from the business or homeowner through a by-law. At this point the costs of the 9-1-1 misdial is spread across everyone, whether you know how to use your phone or not. The OPP are asking everyone to play their part in reducing the amount of accidental 9-1-1 calls. Understand the features on your phone, remove phones from children's hands and consider turning off the 9-1-1 auto-dial if it's not suitable for you. If you do place an unintentional 9-1-1 call, stay on the line to let the emergency operator know it was a pocket dial or unintentional call. Every 9-1-1 call is taken seriously. When a 9-1-1 user doesn't respond, that could be a sign of trouble - a possibility an emergency responded can't ignore.
*This year's numbers reflect Jan. 1, 2019 to Sept. 4, 2019