Pocket-dialed cell phone launches emergency response

A false alarm from a pocket-dialed cell phone sent emergency responders scrambling to Long Lake on the weekend.

Events unfolded Sunday shortly before 1 p.m. when a 911 operator received a frantic call in which she heard people screaming and words to the effect that a boat was sinking.

“There was lots of voices, screaming and there was talk about a boat being sunk,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “The operator actually was convinced it was someone in distress in a vessel that was going down.”

A trace of the cell phone’s location suggested the call came from Victoria Avenue and 102nd Street near Long Lake.

Five police cars and three Nanaimo Fire Rescue trucks plus a rescue boat were rushed to Long Lake where crews found no emergency had taken place.

Police then contacted the cell phone’s owner, who informed them her daughter, 15, was at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant with her cell phone.

Police found the girl in the restaurant’s play area where she was playing a make-believe game about the sinking of the Titanic with some younger children.

“She didn’t have her cell phone locked, it pocket dialed and went on for 90 seconds,” O’Brien said. “Five police cars and three fire trucks were tied up for a minimum 30 minutes. It was a huge waste of resources that could have been easily prevented.”

O’Brien said people need to lock their phones and if possible, not have 911 programmed into their cell phones to prevent false emergency calls.

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