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'Don’t hang up': Surge in 9-1-1 pocket dials prompts LaSalle police to sound alarm

LaSalle police are concerned about a high number of recent accidental 9-1-1 calls, and implored residents to stay on the line should emergency operators be dialed.

Officials said that on Friday, 118 accidental 9-1-1 calls had been made in the small community since Aug. 1, 2023, and suggested the surge in unintentional emergency calls has prompted police services across Ontario to make the public aware of this issue.

“We just ask that you don’t hang up,” said Sr. Const. Terry Seguin. “We have to try to make sure that you're okay and if you can just talk to us, we're still going to go out and check, we're going to still send an officer, but it takes the communication center time to try and figure out how to get back in contact with him to try and call you back.”

Seguin said police are committed to responding to every 9-1-1 call promptly, whether it’s a legitimate emergency or an accidental dial, to ensure safety. He added accidental calls take up operator resources that could be utilized for true emergencies.

Officials said it’s noteworthy that the majority of recent unintended 9-1-1 calls originated from mobile phones, often due to changes or updates in operating systems with emergency features.

In a release, LaSalle police said many devices trigger the emergency SOS feature through simple actions, like pressing the power button multiple times or simply holding it down.

“Just be aware that if the phone is in your pocket, those buttons can easily be pressed,” Seguin explained. “We are going to come out and it takes an officer away from other areas that they need to focus on. The officer is going to come out and check on your well being.”

“Best thing that we ask you to do is stay on the phone and speak with the communicator. Tell them what's going on and understand that we are going to check on your well being and it's just for your own safety," Seguin added. “If we can all kind of work together to help resolve this, it'll just alleviate some of the burden on the emergency services.”

“Pocket dialing is always an annoyance,” explained London-based technology analyst Carmi Levy. “We laugh when we hear from someone that we know mistakenly called us but in the context of emergency services, it can be life-threatening to people.

“It diverts resources away from real emergencies people who actually need help,” Levy added.

Levy suggested people take a look at the settings on their phone, and told CTV News Windsor accidental 9-1-1 calls pose a huge public safety risk and put others at risk of delays in receiving critical services.

“Most phones have an emergency SOS feature, for example on the iPhone,” Levy explained. “You press the side button five times, well that's fairly easy to do by accident in your pocket if it's situated just the right way. So you can go into the settings and turn off emergency SOS.”

“It doesn't mean that you can't call 9-1-1. You still can the regular way just by pressing the button that won't work. Probably the easiest way to reduce the risk is to lock your screen,” Levy added. “Most emergency calls are made because the touchscreen was not locked and it was accidentally pressed while it was in your pocket as you moved around.”

Levy suggested people don’t leave their phones open all the time and go into settings to turn on the locks. Doing so will prevent so-called ‘butt dials’ and will improve battery life, but it will also make a person’s phone more secure from people who may want to snoop.

“Who among us hasn't put a phone in a child's hand to let them play with or watch a video? If you're going to do that make sure that you take the SIM card out first. That is a very significant source of errant calls to emergency services,” Levy explained. “And you can save a lot of heartache by simply turning it into a wifi device and turning off the ability for it to make cell based calls.” Top Stories

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