Pranksters weren’t inundating the system. For instance, I have a story about a butt dial, a auto radio, and a cappella renditions of both “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You”.
SAN FRANCISCO-The emergency dispatchers who handle calls to 911 must grapple with urgent situations, frantic callers and garbled messages.
When San Francisco experienced a 28 percent increase in 911 calls between 2011 and 2014, according to the city’s Department of Energy Management, city officials wanted to know why. As more people ditch landlines for smartphones-which are required to let users make emergency calls without having to unlock them-accidental emergency dials are on the rise.
These butt calls are putting an unsafe strain on the system, not unlike the strain an actual butt puts on an unsteady lawn chair that’s been on the deck all winter.
Not only is it time consuming for the dispatcher to take a long, silent butt dial, but it also exacerbates the follow-up process.
Researchers found that 30 percent of calls from wireless phones were accidental in 2014, 88 percent of those accidental dials were called back by the dispatcher, and the average length of the callback process was 1 minute 14 seconds.
One third of the dispatchers surveyed told Google that without a doubt, making callbacks was the biggest “pain point” of their job.
The research follows a memo a year ago from FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who suggested that 50 percent of 911 calls were the result of pocket or butt dialing.
In one sample of 197 wireless calls, 30 percent were caused by accidental dials. “This is a huge waste of resources, raises the cost of providing 911 services, depletes morale, and increases the risk that legitimate 911 calls – and first responders – will be delayed”.
San Francisco’s emergency operators use two codes, “000” and “913”, to identify calls as either “unknown” or “miscellaneous”. Besides allowing for more accidental butt dials, this encourages hoax callers, since the call becomes more hard to trace.
An interesting-slash-scary report from the BBC this week suggests that butt dialing may be a much more serious problem than we realized. It might make an overworked dispatcher’s day a little better.