Although the source of a 911 land-line call is normally traceable with relative ease, cell phone calls are not always so easily tracked. Depending on the strength of your cell signal and several other factors, the police may only be able to pinpoint your location to a certain town, cell tower or radius. Even with the advanced ability to “ping” the location of your cell phone, there are factors that can make this unreliable.
The combination of all these elements mean that police can spend hours searching for someone who called 911 by accident and hung-up on the operator. That is time that could be otherwise spent responding to actual emergencies, investigating crimes or patrolling our communities and highways.
In 2017 the East Algoma Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Detachment responded to 546 911 hang-ups. For the first quarter of 2017 there were 134 “911” calls, and only eight of those being actual emergencies. In comparison, the first quarter of 2018 shows 128 “911” calls, and only 11 being actual emergencies.
Here’s how you can help:
If you accidentally call 911, do not hang up the phone. Stay on the line and tell the operator what happened. The operator will need to know exactly where you are so the police can verify that the 911 call was accidental.
Remember that if you call 911 by accident or mistakenly use it in a non-urgent situation, you’re not in trouble with the police. However, officers will need to check on you to verify that there is no emergency.
Lock your cell phone when it is in your pocket or your purse.
Do not let your children play with your phone. They may inadvertently call 911 and not be able to tell you what they’ve done. Even old cell phones that still have a battery in them are capable of calling 911.
Educate your children about the use of 911 and that people who are in real danger need emergency services personnel to be available.