Guelph police launches awareness campaign to address accidental 911 calls

Guelph Police continue to have their phone lines tied up with accidental calls.

The Accidental 911 Calls campaign kicked off Monday and runs until April 10.

A key issue for the police is to get people to remain on the phone, even if they’ve accidentally called 911. Police would rather you stay on the line to confirm the call was unintended. If you disconnect, police will try to call you back to make sure you are safe.

Scott Tracey, media relations coordinator for Guelph Police, said communications staff spend an average of two to five minutes trying to reach an individual during an abandoned 911 call. And if you stay on the line or answer when they call you back, it’ll take two to five minutes of their time as opposed to taking 10 minutes or more if they don’t hear back.

Tracey said one of the ways police get in touch with people is through text if their initial call back isn’t answered.

“When we call out from the Guelph Police Service here, our phone number will come up as an unknown caller,” Tracey said. “We know a lot of people typically don’t answer if they don’t know who the caller is.”

He said if callers see they’ve received a text from police, then they’re more likely to return that message to help officers understand what happened.

If the communications staff still does not hear back from the caller, then they’ll contact your phone company to get additional information on how to get a hold of you to make sure you’re safe.

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In the past year, police said they received more than 14,000 accidental 911 calls and over 13,000 within the first half of 2020.

They also received nearly 25,000 calls between 2018 and 2019, which they refer to as “Priority 9 calls.”

Tracey said the numbers have been going down due to awareness campaigns like this one.

“I think people don’t realize, for example, how their phone can call 911. Some phones are programmed so that if you hit the volume button a number of times it will call 911,” he said.

He said it’s a safety feature that the manufacturers built into the phones, but if people aren’t aware of it then they don’t know how to prevent it from happening.

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Tracey said this week they’ll be informing the public through social media and a press release, as well as working with their community partners.

He added the city and the University of Guelph will be putting up awareness posters in various spots around the community.

Ultimately, he said police want to prevent the calls from happening, but they also want callers to not hang up.

By staying on the line, Tracey said the process is much less time consuming for dispatch staff, rather than have them follow up through several other steps to ensure it’s not a true emergency.

“The best thing to do is just to stay on the phone, provide a bit of information to one of our communicators so that will allow us to be satisfied that there is not a true emergency and cancel off the call,” he said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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