Butt dials, other accidental calls, tying up 911 dispatchers

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 17:52:18-04

Accidental calls to 911 are tying up dispatchers and delaying the time it takes for help to arrive to real emergencies.

In just the first two weeks of July, there were 1,800 disconnected calls to Cuyahoga County 911. Of those, 95 percent, or more than 1,700, were not real emergencies.

RELATED: Why your emergency call might not be answered

"They're misdials, children playing with the phone, butt dials. A very small percentage [of the hang-ups] are actually emergency calls," says Jacque Costa, a Quality Assurance Supervisor with Cuyahoga County.

Because they don’t know the reason for the hang-up, dispatchers have to follow up on all of those calls, usually by calling back to the number.

Costa adds that in some cases, the callers don’t stop at one false call.

“Sometimes kids call in and get excited somebody answered the phone and so they call back over and over again," she said.

Callers who accidentally call 911 shouldn’t hang up. Instead, they should stay on the line and explain what happened.

If parents give their children an old, disconnected phone, it can still dial 911. The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to remove the batteries.