It’s easily done. You are walking around and suddenly your mobile is dialling out. Usually, though, it is not to the emergency services.
Now the police alerting system says that Devon & Cornwall Police is offering advice to callers who accidentally dial 999, in an effort to reduce unnecessary demand placed on operators.
The Force has seen an increase in the number of abandoned 999 calls recently. There are lots of reasons someone may abandon a call to the emergency services, for example a person calling in a crisis situation who is unable to ask for help.
The most common reason for an abandoned call is someone accidentally ‘pocket dialling’ emergency services. This is where a mobile phone accidentally calls 999 and, on some models, even happens when the phone is locked.
A 999 call is recorded as ‘abandoned’ when the line is disconnected before the caller speaks to a member of the emergency services or confirms to a BT 999 operator that they are safe and well.
Chief Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith, Head of Contact & Resolution Command for Devon & Cornwall Police, said: “When a 999 call is abandoned, it can waste precious time that could otherwise be spent helping someone with an emergency and potentially saving a life.
“When an emergency call is abandoned without speaking with the caller, operators in the contact centre spend time researching the phone number and associated details to ensure there is no risk to the caller and will return the call several times to check on the caller.”
Last financial year, 2020/2021, Devon & Cornwall Police received a total of 246,629 emergency 999 calls, of which 15,183 were abandoned.
Ch. Supt Drummond-Smith continued: “We understand that accidents happen, but if you do call 999 by mistake, please stay on the line to tell us everything is ok – otherwise valuable resources are taken away from answering other calls.”
Tips from Devon & Cornwall Police to reduce the chance of accidental 999 calls:
- Keep your phone safe and out of reach from children.
- Lock your phone before you put it in your pocket – be aware on some models, the phone will call 999 even when locked, if certain buttons are pressed.
- Talk to children about how and when to call for help in an emergency – but how prank dialling 999 for fun can have serious consequences for them and others.
- If you dial 999, stay on the line. Otherwise, we will call you back. The police want to know that you are safe and it saves us valuable time. Every second counts.