WHEREAS the significant rise in cell phone use has resulted in a rise in the number of misdialled or accidental calls to 9-1-1; and
WHEREAS unintentional calls from wireless devices to 9-1-1 services account for up to 35% of all 9-1-1 calls received by emergency call centers in some jurisdictions; and
WHEREAS unintentional calls from wireless devices are attributable in most cases to the ability of the handset to be programmed to dial 9-1-1 with the depression of a single button; and
WHEREAS so-called “pocket dials” are a significant drain on policing resources, both from a 9-1-1 call centre standpoint, and also in terms of police operational resources, to determine if the caller is in danger; and
WHEREAS Industry Canada and the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates telecommunication hardware licensed to be sold in Canada;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties request that Industry Canada and the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission immediately address the sale of all mobile handsets that support single button access to 9-1-1 emergency services and that a requirement for future handsets sold in Canada include a minimum two button push with a call confirmation or acknowledgement for access to 9-1-1 emergency services.
With the manufacturing of single button emergency dial handsets for sale in Canada we have seen rising percentages of pocket dialed 9-1-1 calls. Percentages of false 9-1-1 calls have been reported and published as being as high as 37.33% in Canada.
These pocket dialed calls tie up police and emergency services needlessly and in turn take away critical resources from real emergencies. The most effective approach to reducing 9-1-1 calls dialed in error is to manage access by regulating manufactures and providing education for mobile users on dialing 9-1-1 and on “what to expect?”
The problem with so called “pocket dialed” 9-1-1 calls has reached a critical point, and with the explosive growth of smart phones with numerous features and applications specifically designed to dial 9-1-1 quickly, the impact on the proper handling of ‘real’ emergencies is being comprised too often.
In 2007, at the direction of FPT (Federal, Provincial, Territorial) Ministers responsible for Justice, the Deputy Ministers Responsible for Justice authorized the creation of an ad hoc FPT committee to examine the extent to which 9-1-1 abuse may be interfering with the ability of 9-1-1 emergency systems to process and address real emergency calls. In April 2008, the “Report of the Ad Hoc CCSO – 911/PSAP Administrators Committee on Abuse of 911 Emergency Systems” was released and noted that unintentional 9-1-1 calls represented an average of 16% of calls received.
In April 2011, the Calgary Public Safety Communications Centre launched a public awareness campaign to highlight the issue of unintentional 9-1-1 calls, noting that roughly 300 of the 1000 daily calls required additional work and were not “real” emergencies. Edmonton reviewed and reported a similar trend.
Today, the percentages are reported at 35% or higher, and it is clear this upward trend will continue unless very specific action is taken at both the handset manufacturer level to engineer out this problem, and with the public to stop programming or using applications that one button dial 9-1-1.
Throughout Alberta, and in fact Canada, this preventable problem is tying up 9-1-1 call takers, and results in extensive use of limited emergency resources (especially the police) to ensure that the call in fact is unintentional. While resources are inappropriately busy with this issue, response to ‘real’ emergencies continues to be affected and this trend means additional 9-1-1 and emergency response personnel will have to be added to ensure the overall system is not compromised.
Within the Municipal District of Taber up to 100% of all 9-1-1 calls are unintentionally placed, with a majority being from wireless handsets. In some cases it has taken an RCMP officer an entire shift to locate an individual who inadvertently placed a call to the 9-1-1 call center. It is the policy of first responders to seek out the individual to ensure that an emergency does not exist.
Unintentionally placed calls to 9-1-1 from wireless handsets can be reduced by eliminating single dial button programming of 9-1-1 and by educating the public on the proper use of the 9-1-1 system.
Statistics and Articles:
The Toronto Police Service received 1,227,791 calls to 9-1-1 in 2011. 1 in 5 calls were not valid emergencies. Pocket dials accounted for 107,748, or half of the false calls; misdialed calls to 9-1-1 (116,770) accounted for the remainder.
York Regional Police received 97,886 unintentional 9-1-1 calls from wireless devices in 2011, accounting for 37.33% of all 9-1-1 calls received.
London Police Service received 6,622 pocket dials from August to November, 2011, averaging 11.24% of total 9-1-1 calls.
Peel Regional Police received 80,724 unintentional 9-1-1 calls from wireless devices between June 1st, 2011 and December 31st, 2011, accounting for 33% of the 9-1-1 calls received.
“In 2010 the Prince George RCMP received 753 False or Abandoned 9-1-1 calls. In 2011, that number increased to 1216, a 61.5 % increase.”
“…30 per cent of all calls to 9-1-1 in Calgary – about 300 a day.”
The AAMDC failed to receive a response from the federal government regarding this resolution and will continue to follow-up.