Toronto police launch 911 campaign

by | Oct 11, 2012 | News

Toronto police are hoping to cut down on accidental 911 calls. COURTESY TORONTO POLICE.

By Andrew Millichamp

Toronto Police said this week that they are dealing with too many accidental 911 calls from the workplace.

According to police, over 116,000 misdialed 911 calls were placed in 2011 alone with over 20 per cent coming from businesses and homes.

“The main problem that businesses have is sometimes you have to dial an outside line, you have to dial nine first,” Toronto Police Const. Victor Kwong told Humber News.

“We get a lot of 911 misdialed calls that way,” he said.

Kwong said the public service announcement was designed to bring to light the issue of accidental 911 calls.

“We’re trying to bring an awareness to that, but then what we’re also trying to do is if you accidentally do dial 911, don’t hang up,” he said.
Every call that is a hang-up gets investigated by the police.

“Dispatchers have to call back and trace and try to find out if it was a legitimate 911 call,” said Kwong.

The dispatcher then attempts to find out if the call was terminated for an outside reason, such as a medical issue.

Or, in a worst case scenario if “someone has a gun pointed to your head” and tells you to hang up,” said Kwong.

Kwong said tracing hang-ups can become “very time consuming”.

Misdialed and dropped 911 calls range in how much time they take up. A call from a direct line can simply be returned by a dispatcher, whereas a call from a business often leads to a switchboard.

“If they hung up before the call display information comes through, they have to do a full trace,” said Kwong. “Those ones can take several minutes.”

When a situation like this happens, the dispatcher and the line that was used are unavailable until the trace is complete.

This results in the removal of a 911 line that someone may need to declare an emergency.

“Obviously we’ve got tons [of lines], hopefully we’ll never run out but that one that’s used is one less for anyone that really needs to call,” he said.

911 calls happen at Humber, too

Pervez Ditta, director of public safety and risk management for Humber College said Thursday that while the school doesn’t have a lot of misdialed 911 calls, they do happen.

“If the dispatcher at the police tries to call back, they won’t actually get you, they’ll get our switchboard,” Ditta told Humber News.

“They will call our dispatch and we will then do a search or look at the vicinity where the issue might be.”

Ditta also said Humber College is looking into a new phone system to stop false 911 calls in the future.

The message from police is part of a larger campaign to bring attention to proper and improper uses of calling 911.

Other PSA’s have focused on pocket dialing, reporting impaired driving and teaching kids when to call 911.