Ontario police departments try to stop pocket-dialed 9-1-1 calls

TORONTO: The Toronto Police Service (TPS) has launched a campaign to stop consumers from pocket-dialing 9-1-1 on their cell phones. Similar campaigns will be launched around Ontario in coming months.

TORONTO: The Toronto Police Service (TPS) has launched a campaign to stop consumers from pocket-dialing 9-1-1 on their cell phones. Similar campaigns will be launched around Ontario in coming months.  

About 18% of all 9-1-1 calls in Toronto in 2011 were pocket dials or misdials, which took its toll on call centers in the city, the police force said.

“When we have a pocket dial, the operator is hearing sounds that could indicate a struggle is taking place or someone who is having a medical emergency and can't speak,” said Wendy Drummond, a media relations officer for the TPS. “During the time this is being figured out, someone could be in the queue with a real emergency. And in a real emergency, every second counts.”

The campaign is focused on social media. The police department posted a video on YouTube of an actual pocket dial, and it plans to publish more in the next year. It will also release audio files of accidental 9-1-1 calls.

The department will also release information via Twitter about how to avoid pocket dials and when are the appropriate times to contact 9-1-1 instead of a non-emergency phone number.

It is disseminating similar information through Facebook, which has also provided a forum for consumers to share stories about when they've mistakenly dialed 9-1-1. The TPS is also planning to launch a school-focused contest to have students create their own public awareness campaigns about appropriate 9-1-1 use.

The department created the initiative in-house. Its budget is undisclosed, said Drummond.

Police departments across Ontario are also planning to launch their own campaigns said Couto, director of government relations and communications at the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. Some departments have seen as much as 37% of their 9-1-1 calls come from unintentional dialings, he said.

Many departments are also in talks with British Columbia-based call center E-Comm to use images from its 2011 accidental 9-1-1 campaign.

“This campaign has been very creative and draws people in,” Couto said. “We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we can use what's worked in British Columbia.”

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