Abandoned 911 calls posing problem for police

Penticton RCMP say number of abandoned calls has more than tripled over the past year

Penticton RCMP are seeing a dramatic increase in abandoned 911 calls.

From April 2011 to March 2012, RCMP saw the number of abandoned calls jump to 59 a month from the 17 monthly calls they averaged from January 2009 to March 2011.

“To put this in perspective, Penticton RCMP has responded to more abandoned 911 calls in the first quarter of this year than we did all year in 2009 and 2010,” said Sgt. Rick Dellebuur. “While pocket dialing is not responsible for all abandoned 911 calls, it is certainly believed to be the cause of the dramatic increase in abandoned calls that we are now experiencing.”

RCMP are reminding cellphone users to reduce the chance of pocket dialing 911 by not programming the emergency number into a cellphone or having the keypad locked while the phone is in a pocket or purse.

“Abandoned 911 calls receive the same priority as any 911 call until proven false. As a result, emergency resources are directed to the 911 call, and in the case of an abandoned call, police are unable to determine exactly what resources are needed or how many. This can cause police to respond with too many or too little of the wrong resources,” said Dellebuur.

In the event of an inadvertent call, emergency resources may have also been diverted from incidents where they are really needed.

“Abandoned 911 calls cost everyone time, money and the risk of emergency services not being available when and where they are needed,” said Dellebuur.

RCMP suggest that if you have made a pocket-dialed 911 call, to be sure to answer the subsequent follow-up call that will be made by the 911 dispatch to confirm your call.