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Researchers: Butt dials keeping 911 dispatchers busy

By
Ben Hooper
A pocket dial waiting to happen. Photo by Svetislav1944/Shutterstock.com
A pocket dial waiting to happen. Photo by Svetislav1944/Shutterstock.com

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Researchers looking into an increase in 911 calls in San Francisco said about 30 percent of calls to the emergency number are accidental butt dials.

The Google researchers said they shadowed 911 dispatchers in San Francisco and discovered 30 percent of the calls received in a particular window of time were accidental rather than actual emergencies.

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The team said protocol requires dispatchers to return the calls and leave voice mails, bringing the amount of time wasted per accidental call to about a minute and 14 seconds.

Google said it polled dispatchers and more than one-third identified accidental calls as the largest "pain point" of their work day.

Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Michael O'Rielly issued a memo last year suggesting 50 percent of 911 calls were pocket dials.

"Dedicated and hard-working public safety officials who answer and respond to Americans in times of need are being inundated by accidental wireless calls to 911," O'Rielly wrote.

"If my anecdotal experiences are remotely accurate, it would mean that approximately 84 million 911 calls a year are pocket dials," he wrote. "This is a huge waste of resources... and increases the risk that legitimate 911 calls -- and first responders -- will be delayed."

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Accidental calls aren't the only time-wasters for 911 dispatchers and emergency responders -- police departments in Britain and the United States recently tweeted pleas for members of the public to refrain from using emergency numbers to report Facebook outages.

Police in Austintown, Ohio, said they responded to a 911 call Friday from a man who told officers he smoked too much marijuana. The man was found "on the floor in the fetal position" and "was surrounded by a plethora of Doritos, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and Chips Ahoy cookies."

No charges have yet been filed in connection with the incident.

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