Accidental 911 calls pose public safety risk

WASHINGTON — The increasing number of accidental 911 calls  is jeopardizing public safety, according to Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman.

About 65 percent of 911 calls “actually get canceled before they’re even dispatched,” Chapman said.

Most people who realize they have accidentally dialed 911 hang up, said Chapman.

Accidental 911 calls force employees from the county’s emergency communication center to spend precious time ensuring emergency services aren’t actually needed, he said.

With touch-screen phones, Chapman said it is easy to mistakenly dial 911, “but if you do, just stay on the line so we can verify that there is no emergency.”

Chapman said many accidental 911 calls can be attributed to calls trying to dial overseas, or children playing with phones.

Even phones without wireless service are capable of dialing 911.

While a user who mistakenly dials 911 may be embarrassed, hanging up can cost emergency workers valuable time.

After a hang-up call to 911, Chapman said employees will call the number back to verify the caller doesn’t need police, fire, or ambulance service.

“If we don’t know, then we’re going to respond,” Chapman said.

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