Don’t butt-dial 911, police caution after surge in hang-up calls from Oshawa to Pickering

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Published June 28, 2023 at 2:43 pm

Durham Regional Police are requesting residents to be more careful with their phones after a new update made butt-dialling 911 easier.

A new update to some Samsung phones allows the user to press their phone’s side buttons to quickly contact 911 if in a situation where they can’t unlock the phone screen. The Emergency SOS as it’s called will ring 911 if the side button is held down or pressed repeatedly.  However, the update also made it easier to accidentally call while the phone is in the user’s pocket, commonly known as a “butt-dial.”

Following the update, police reported a 19 per cent jump in hang-up calls to 911 in April and May. Police forces nationwide, and in the US and Europe have reported similar increases of around 20 per cent.

“We encourage all residents and visitors of Durham Region to check the SOS settings on your wireless devices and help reduce unnecessary calls to 9-1-1, so we can keep the lines clear for real life or death emergencies,” Durham police said.

They reported 1,040 hang-up calls over the last weekend alone. The protocol for 911 operators is to call back every single person who calls 911 and hangs up which ties up the lines for people trying to report real emergencies. This usually takes an average of 90 seconds, police say, for the more than 1,040 calls equal 26 hours of manpower.

If someone does call 911 accidentally, police ask they stay on the line and tell the operator as much. This saves the operator that valuable 90 seconds of calling back when someone else’s life may be on the line. Additionally, they ask people who wish to keep the Emergency SOS feature active to keep their phones stored properly.

“This could impact real emergency calls and every second counts,” police added.

 

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