KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Emergency dispatchers at 911 call centers are used to hearing from people in their most desperate hour.
But dispatchers say that they are increasingly hearing the sounds of silence – and they say that the increasingly cozy relationship between many people’s posteriors and their smart phones may be to blame.
According to Steve Hoskins, communications manager for the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, dispatchers took nearly 15,000 misdialed calls a month during the summer months.
“Year to date, we’ve had about 118,000 misdials to 911, in Kansas City alone,” said Hoskins.
Across the nation, misdialed 911 calls are accounting for anywhere from 25 to 70 percent of 911 calls in some communities, according to the National Emergency Numbers Association. The increased use of smart phones is being blamed, as many phones are configured to call 9-1-1 when a 9 or a 1 is pressed.
Other phones have an emergency number button that can be easily triggered if you sit on it.
However, so-called “butt dialing” isn’t the only thing to blame for the increase in 911 misdials. Hoskins says that the influx of calls began after people in Kansas City, Missouri, started having to dial 1 before calling a number with a 913 area code.
“That implementation caused our misdials to increase approximately 125 percent,” said Hoskins. But he says that however you reached 911, it’s important that you don’t hang up.
Hoskins says that in some cases, 911 dispatchers will send police to that location to check – which he says can cause a public safety issue by potentially keeping officers from real emergencies.
“For us the most important thing is knowing that people are okay, so make sure you talk to us when you accidently dial,” said Hoskins.