14 News Special Report: Pocket Dialing 911 - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

14 News Special Report: Pocket Dialing 911

Have you ever answered the phone and just heard background noise?

A lot of us are guilty of accidentally placing calls, but when that call goes to 911, it becomes a problem.

This happens more often than you might expect. Most of us carry our phone with us everywhere we go. You might put it in your purse or your pocket.

But if you hit the wrong button by accident, you could pocket dial 911.

"It's almost like you're eavesdropping on someone's conversation because you'll hear people talking, but they're not talking to you, " Owensboro Police Officer Michael Hathaway said.

They are 911 calls from cell phones that the users never intended to make. It's called pocket dialing and it's a big problem.

"The entire time the dispatcher is on that line trying to determine if there's an actual emergency or not, that's tying up the dispatcher from being able to work on another call," Hathaway said.

Of the nearly 46,000 911 calls placed by cell phones in Owensboro last year, 5,500, or 12 percent of them, were pocket dialed by the user.

"They'll realize, 'well, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize I even dialed you,'" Hathaway said.

Brittney Angel didn't realize her phone was pocket dialing.

"When I used to go out, I used to call my parents at 3 a.m. on accident.  So, I learned to put a lock on it after that," Angel said.

A lock that has to be unlocked before a call can be made.

"I have a screen lock on mine so I just lock it with a passcode, just in case," Angel shared.

"You might hear a young person's voice, " Dispatch director Rodney Buchanan said.

Buchanan, the director of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Dispatch Center said a lot of misdialed 911 calls are placed by children playing with a cell phone, who oftentimes won't hear the dispatcher trying to get their attention.

"They'll keep saying, 'Is an adult there? This is 911. You made a cal;. What's your emergency?' Three or four times," Buchanan said.

In Evansville and Vanderburgh County, a little less than 5 percent of the calls received at the 911 Dispatch Center are pocket dialed.

While that number might seem low, keep in mind, every one of those calls ties up a dispatcher, and oftentimes a police officer, who is sent to make sure that call really was placed by accident.

"It can tie up emergency personnel that are enroute there from going to a legitimate run," Buchanan said.

What can you do to make sure your phone doesn't pocket dial?  

First, set a lock on your phone. Even if your phone has an "emergency call" feature, a locked screen can make it more difficult to hit by accident.  

Also, if you're going to give your child your old cell phone to play with, keep in mind that even if cell service has been deactivated from that phone, it can still dial 911.

"Simply remove the battery and that way there's absolutely no way it would dial," Hathaway said.

There are some apps you can download to help prevent pocket dialing. Click here for more information.

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