Accidental / False 911 Calls are a Big Problem for our City
In 2014, the Owasso Emergency Communications Center handled 6,691 hang up calls to 911. Each must be taken as a serious potential cry for help.
The dispatcher initially attempts to get the caller to answer questions and must stay on the line to listen for background noises if the caller does not respond. If the line is lost, the dispatcher must attempt to call the cell phone back. If there were sounds of trouble such as screaming, shouting or other sounds of struggle, one dispatcher stays on the line while another dispatcher contacts the cell phone company for an emergency cell phone location in order to pinpoint the position of the person in trouble.
All of these scenarios take time. Cell phone locates and subsequent officer response to try to find callers can take a LOT of time. Using the minimum time of approximately 2 minutes for each of the most simple abandoned call, dispatchers were occupied at least 223 hours handling false 911 calls. This was while simultaneously being responsible for other active emergency situations and radio traffic from responders.
There are a number of reasons for false 911 calls. Many people have a 911 emergency auto dial programmed to a single button on their phone which contributes to "pocket dials". Most people don't realize that when old cell phones are given to children as toys that these phones are still capable of dialing 911. Our local area code of 918 also lends itself to accidental dials.