911 operators trying to stem tide of bogus calls

Operators, who serve 350,000 people on the Island, outlying islands and Powell River, received nearly 15,000 false emergency calls in 2010. More than half of those, 61 per cent, came from mobile devices.

Vancouver Island 911 operators are trying to stem a rise in unintended emergency calls from cell phone users.

Operators, who serve 350,000 people on the Island, outlying islands and Powell River, received nearly 15,000 false emergency calls in 2010. More than half of those, 61 per cent, came from mobile devices.

To April 30 this year, 63 per cent of more than 5,000 false emergency calls – 44 calls per day – came from cellphones and other mobile devices that had to be tracked down and verified by operators and police. Many of those calls were triggered by mobile device keypads accidentally pressed while in their owners’ pockets.

Time wasted tracking down abandoned calls adds up to hundreds of hours annually.

Operators must call back dropped calls to determine if they are real emergencies. If the operator is unable to contact anyone, police are dispatched to physically verify if there is an emergency. Determining a cell phone’s location means operators must also contact the cellular service provider to get subscriber information and the cell phone’s GPS coordinates, if available, and then dispatch police to that location.

For more information on when to call for emergency assistance, please go to www.bc.rcmp.ca.

Tips to eliminate accidental dialing:

• Remove your mobile phones and wireless devices from your pockets while driving or in a car to avoid accidental pocket dialing.

• Avoid pocket dialing by locking your cellular phone when not in use.

• Remove 9-1-1 from your programmed speed dials on your mobile or home phone.

• If you realize you have dialed 9-1-1 by accident, stay on the line or call back to let an operator know there is no emergency. Also  be sure to pick up the phone if you receive a call back from a 911 operator.