An increasing trend of accidental emergency calls are plugging up the RCMP communications centre that services Penticton.
“In the span of two weeks alone in April of this year, we calculated that just over 110 hours were spent by operators in locating and verifying abandoned calls which equates to about eight hours a day,” said the manager of Kelowna OCC Staff Sgt. Tim Gross. “That time is exponentially longer for police officers on the road to follow up on abandoned calls.
The Southeast District 911 Operations Communications Center, located in Kelowna, offers service to a combined population of 660,000 people in a vast region between 70 Mile House to the northwest, Golden to the northeast, Princeton to the southwest and Cranbrook to the southeast. Last year, the OCC in Kelowna received a total of 221,073 calls, of which 46,033 were abandoned. Some 53 per cent of those abandoned calls were generated from mobile devices.
Between April 6 and 19, the OCC in Kelowna received 1,936 abandoned calls with 58 per cent coming from mobile devices. That is an average of 138 calls per day in those two weeks alone that Gross said requires operators and police officers to track down and verify for emergency.
RCMP said operators are required to call back dropped calls to determine whether they are real emergencies. If the operator is unable to get hold of anyone, attempts to locate the caller are the next step before a police officer is dispatched to verify physically. Determining the location of a cell phone dropped/abandoned call also requires a lot of effort because it means contacting the cell service provider to obtain subscriber information, obtaining their GPS co-ordinates and then dispatching police to the location.
“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,” said Gross.
RCMP said if you accidentally call 911 you should simply tell the operator there is no emergency. Additionally they ask that you pick up the phone when you receive a call back after accidentally dialing the emergency line. This will avoid having a police officer knocking at your door. Other tips RCMP offer is to remove mobile phones and wireless devices from your pockets while you are driving in a car to avoid accidental pocket dialing and removing 911 from your programmed speed dials.