911 "pocket dials" waste dispatchers', officers' time

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist CHRISTIAN GARCIA

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 17 at 7:04 PM

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- It happens to all of us. You look down to find out your cell phone has accidentally called someone. Now some area 911 dispatchers say those "pocket dial" calls are tying up their lines and could potentially cause big problems.

Across the country, millions of people call 911 by mistake every year. Cedar Park Police say 13 percent of their 911 calls are accidental and while often times these calls are entertaining, calling 911 by mistake is no joke.

"I'm trying to do a back flip!" said a young voice in one recorded 911 call.

Cedar Park dispatchers take calls like that one every day.

"The whole point of 911 is it's a short number, easy to dial quickly," said Cedar Park Communications and Records Staff manager Sara Wright.

It's so easy, often times, people dial it by mistake.

"Misdials, pocket dials, just carrying the phone in your back pocket, it's in the bottom of your purse and doesn't have the key guard on, it dials 911," Wright explained. "We hear a lot of strange things, just people going about their daily lives, singing along to the car radio."

"Whats the address of the emergency," a dispatcher asked in one 911 recording.

"I want my mommy," the caller responded.

In that call, kids at a daycare called 911 while playing with an old cell phone that's not even in service anymore.

"You've got to take the battery out," Wright said. "You can't say 'oh, it doesn't have service anymore so I'm going to let them play games on it.' They can still use that phone to call 911."

Every time a call comes in, dispatchers take it seriously.

"We have to treat every 911 call like it's an emergency," said Cedar Park Police Officer Harold Selsky.

Officer Selsky says many times a person can't respond over the phone in an emergency situation, so even if the call seems like an accident, they respond just in case.

"Two officers will respond just for officer safety," Officer Selsky explained. "So it can take two officers off of the street potentially for an emergency that could actually be occurring."

The City of Cedar Park even put out a Public Service Announcement to make people more aware of the problem.

The City says these accidental calls waste valuable time in the call center and on the streets.

The City says when they do respond to accidental calls, they will often take that time to provide educational resources to the caller or the kids about the risks of calling 911 by mistake. If you realize you pocket dialed 911, dispatchers advise you to stay on the line and explain the situation instead of hanging up.

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