The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) is asking residents to be mindful of how they store their electronic devices as emergency features on both iOS and Android devices are contributing to a concerning trend where high volumes of ‘false’ 9-1-1 calls are being made.
This morning, within minutes of an Amber Alert being issued by the Waterloo Regional Police Service, our Communications Bureau received two dozen accidental 9-1-1 calls as a result of people trying to turn off the alert and inadvertently activating the Emergency SOS feature.
In 2021, the HRPS Communications Bureau answered 178,616 calls to 9-1-1, of which 26 per cent were ‘false’, ‘mistaken’ or non-emergency by nature. Similar call volumes were fielded in 2020, meaning that for two years running, approximately 1 in 4 calls received were accidental.
How to avoid accidental 9-1-1 calls
Many accidental 9-1-1 calls happen when emergency features are inadvertently activated while a cell phone is in a pocket, purse, or in a vehicle’s cupholder. Often, these emergency features are activated by pressing and holding the button(s) on your device to trigger a call to 9-1-1; when fully set up, they may even send text alerts to your emergency contacts and can even share your exact location. False 9-1-1 calls are also originating from smart watches and from deactivated phones children are playing with.
While these features can be helpful in an emergency situation, they can be easily and mistakenly activated without your knowing.
To help reduce the number of false 9-1-1 calls received, the HRPS is asking the community to learn how these features work on their devices and to be more aware of where/how they are storing their devices. The HRPS is also recommending that parents do not give deactivated phones to children to play with because, even without a SIM card or cellular plan, calls to 9-1-1 can still be made.
What if you dial 9-1-1 accidentally?
Accidental / unintentional 9-1-1 calls not only take HRPS call takers away from possible incoming priority calls, they also tie up resources when officers must complete well-being checks if the call taker is unable to verify that the call was made mistakenly. If you do mistakenly call 9-1-1, stay on the line, let the call taker know what has happened, and confirm that you are not in need of emergency assistance.
When to call 9-1-1
As a reminder, 9-1-1 is for police, fire, or medical emergencies when immediate action is required, such as when someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress. Situations that do not need an immediate response or dispatch of police should be directed to our non-emergency number: 905-825-4777.