Pocket 9-1-1 dialing a pain

Many people

Many people

Thousands of dropped calls must be tracked by officers

Dropped calls to 9-1-1 from cellphones are a public safety issue police are hoping to bring into the spotlight.

Of the thousands of abandoned 9-1-1 calls that come into the Saanich police call centre every year from Saanich and Oak Bay, those that come from cellphones add an extra burden on police.

“If you call 9-1-1 on your cellphone (and hang up), we don’t know where you are,” said Saanich police spokesman Sgt. Dean Jantzen. “It’s no end of frustration for our call centre people.”

Of the 33,000 calls received at the Saanich communications centre, thousands are hung up without explanation. When such calls are dropped, communications staff and police are required to follow up.

Call centre staff must first call the number back. If the caller can’t be reached, an officer is dispatched to locate them.

To do so, the cellphone service provider must be contacted to obtain the caller’s information and the phone’s GPS co-ordinates can sometimes be tracked.

While Saanich doesn’t track how many calls are dropped each year, or what proportion of those come from cellphones, the issue is a labour-intensive one for police, Jantzen said. “It’s a public education issue for us. We try to get the message out on a regular basis that these dropped calls are a problem for us.”

Police say cellphone users should keep their phones out of their pockets, lock the keypad. and don’t put 9-1-1 in your speed dial list. If you call 9-1-1 by accident, don’t hang up‚ stay on the line and explain the mistake.