Accidental calls plague 911

The RCMP is trying to reduce the number of accidental 911 calls it receives.

The Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment 911 Operations Communications Center (OCC), located in Chilliwack, received a total of 48,558 calls, of which 5,193 were abandoned. Over half (53 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.

This facility offers a centralized service to a combined population of 237,550  people in vast region with Boston Bar to the north, Manning Park to the east, 264th Avenue to the west and all of Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope including Cultus Lake.

The manager of the Upper Fraser Valley OCC civilian member (CM) Shelly Mercer says that the OCC members spend a significant amount of time tracking abandoned 911 calls. That time is exponentially longer for police officers on the road attempting to follow up on abandoned calls.

Operators are required to call back dropped calls to determine whether they are real emergencies. If the operator is unable to get a hold of anyone, attempts to locate the caller is the next step then a police officer is dispatched to verify physically. Determining the location of a cell phone dropped/abandoned call requires much more effort. It means contacting the cell service provider to obtain subscriber information, obtaining their GPS coordinates and then dispatching police to the location.

Putting it in perspective, Mercer explains that “police officers are taken off the road for hours each day just to respond and verify abandoned calls. That precious time could be spent on investigating more serious offences and responding to real emergencies.”

Mercer said there is no data on how each community compares to another when it comes to abandoned calls.

“Telus provides us with the information as a whole … we don’t have individual numbers,” she said.

Education is the key and Mercer says operator attempt to explain to callers what is considered an emergency.

“That has worked well to avoid the blatantly wrong calls.”

New technology informs 911 operators if a call has been made, even if the caller hangs up before the phone rings.

“It pops up on our screen,” she explained.

Operators and officers alike are asking the public to please stay on the line if you accidentally call 911 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 911 include:

● Removing your mobile phones and wireless devices from your pockets while you are driving or in a car to avoid accidental “pocket dialing”.

● Removing 911 from your programmed speed dials whether on your mobile phone or land line.

● If you realize you have dialed 911 by accident, please call back to let an operator know there is no emergency.

For more information on when to call for emergency assistance, please visit our website at www.bc.rcmp.ca.