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Accidental calls to 911 add stress to emergency dispatch call centers

Oklahoma 911 call centers are experiencing a large amount of accidental 911 calls due to safety features available on mobile devices including iPhones and Apple watches.

According to the Oklahoma 911 Management Authority and the State 911 Coordinator, 12 percent of 911 calls in Oklahoma are hang-ups that have to be followed up on. Almost all of these calls are considered accidents.

For each accidental 911 call, dispatchers must follow up to determine if there is a real emergency or not, adding excess time and attention away from intentional 911 calls.

The 911 call centers also receive thousands of calls each year that are open lines, which means dispatchers can hear background noise or people talking, but no one is telling them what the problem is. In those cases, dispatchers remain on the line or call back to find out if the caller needs help.

Both Apple and Android devices have built in features to call 911 in an emergency, however, with recent technology changes officials are now able to see what type of device is calling. Oklahoma 911 coordinators have noted the majority of calls are coming from Apple devices as a result of the SOS emergency call feature that is automatically enabled when the devices are purchased. In some areas, accidental calls from Apple devices account for more than 95 percent of the total accidental 911 call volume.

Apple users are encouraged to be aware of their iPhone and Apple Watch SOS features, review how it works and be careful not to activate the feature by accident.

The 911 Management Authority and State 911 Coordinator advise if you do accidentally call 911, please stay on the line or call back immediately to let the operator know that the that the call was made in error. Every 911 call registers at your nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and must be reviewed no matter how fast you hang up.

There are two iPhone shortcut features that allow the user to call 911. The first is to rapidly press the power button on the side of your device 5 times and the second is to hold down the power and either volume button. If the countdown option is turned on there will be a countdown before the call is actually placed.

Both of these features can be very helpful for certain circumstances where you may need to call 911 but are unable to do so by dialing the numbers. However, they can both be triggered by mistake while the phone being stored in a bag or pocket, while being played with by a child, or by other activities.

Deactivated phones that are used for toys can also accidentally dial 911 as the FCC has mandated that all phones be able to place a 911 call regardless of whether they have sim card or are on an active network.

If you do not want to keep the SOS emergency call feature enabled on your phone or deactivated phone, apple provides an option to turn it off in the phone settings under “Emergency SOS.”

The Oklahoma 911 Management Authority is made up of members from 911 programs across the state along with other 911 partners and the State 911 Coordinator is part of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

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