Accidental 9-1-1 calls

The Guelph Police Service received over 14,000 abandoned 9-1-1 calls in 2021. This continues to be a huge problem that ties up valuable resources and prevents people with critical emergencies from reaching 9-1-1. The Guelph Police Service needs you to help prevent these types of calls.

Prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls

The majority of accidental calls to 9-1-1 come from cell phones. We deal with many different types of accidental 9-1-1 calls, but the most common types include pocket dials, cup holder calls, and bag dials (such as from your purse). It is paramount to safely store and carry your cell phone at all times.

Every single 9-1-1 call that comes in to the Guelph Police Service is answered and attended to, including the accidental and hang-up calls that we receive every day. Communications Staff return EVERY hang-up call to see if emergency services are needed. If there is no answer, a message is left, advising the individual that their device has dialed 9-1-1. Following this, if the call was made from a cell phone, the Communications Staff will then send a text message to your device to advise that your device dialed 9-1-1. If the Communications Staff still does not hear back, they will contact your phone company to get additional information on how to get in contact with you to make sure you are safe.

If you realize that you or your phone has dialed 9-1-1 in error, do not panic and do not hang up so our Communications Staff can ensure your safety.

During the process of trying to contact an abandoned 9-1-1 call, Communications Staff spend on average 2-10 minutes trying to reach the individual. If you stay on the line or answer when we call you back, it takes 2-5 minutes of our time. If you do not answer our initial call back, it can take 10 minutes or more. This ties up emergency services, phone lines, valuable resources, and prevents someone with a real emergency from being able to reach us.

How can you help?

Make sure your cellphone cannot dial 9-1-1 on its own. It is important to note that cellphones in purses, pockets, or backpacks can randomly dial 9-1-1 even if the keypad is locked. Storing it in a phone case can help to ensure your cellphone cannot dial 9-1-1 accidentally.

If you are putting your phone in your pocket, there are a handful of other precautions that you can take to prevent these calls. Start by locking your screen. It does not fully prevent these calls from taking place, but it is better than putting your active, unlocked phone into your pocket. Adding a password to your device, whether it be a number, pattern, face ID, or thumbprint, will make it slightly harder for your phone to accidentally unlock in your pocket and call the emergency line.

With older, inactive cellphones, even without a plan or pay-as-you-go minutes, you can still call 9-1-1, so taking the batteries out is a simple, easy solution.

9-1-1 is an easy number to remember, resulting in a lot of calls from children playing with phones. In addition, children who are learning about 9-1-1 in school are sometimes tempted to “test” 9-1-1. Also, taking the SIM card out of your device when you give it to your children does not actually prevent your phone from making calls to emergency services. So, if you allow your child to play with your phone, make sure you are monitoring their activity.

Accidental 9-1-1 calls can also happen when 9-1-1 is pre-programmed into your device. Again, 9-1-1 is an easy and well-known emergency number. In an emergency, simply dialing 9-1-1 is faster than remembering which speed dial code you programmed.

Emergency SOS feature

Most phones are pre-set by manufacturers to call 9-1-1 if the side buttons are pressed a specific number of times. As much as it may seem handy, it results in dozens of accidental 9-1-1 calls every day. By way of example, these calls can come from placing your phone in the cup holder of your car while you are driving. As your phone bounces around in the cup holder, these side buttons can get hit or pressed the number of times required to make the emergency call.

iOS devices

On iPhone 8 or later, your iPhone can automatically call emergency services. When “Call with Hold” or “Call with 5 Presses” is turned on and you try to make an emergency call, your iPhone begins a countdown and sounds an alert. After the countdown ends, your iPhone automatically calls emergency services.

Apple watches

Holding the side button will call emergency services automatically.

If you choose to disable the Emergency SOS feature on your device to prevent accidental calls, check the user manual, the manufacturer’s website, or call the service provider to determine whether your device has this feature and how to turn it off.

Note:  If you choose to disable your “Call with Hold” or “Call with 5 Presses” settings on your iOS Device or the “Hold Side Button to Dial” setting on your Apple Watch, you can still use the Emergency SOS slider to make a call.

What if I accidentally call 911?

Our #1 suggestion: Don’t panic!

If you accidentally dial 911, from your home or cell phone, stay on the line and tell the Communications Staff what happened. If you hang up, we will call you back and that could tie up a line for someone who needs it.

If you do hang up, pick up the phone when we call you back. Do not worry, you will not be in trouble.

Note: Our number is not displayed when we call out to you, it will be displayed as an unknown number.