With cellphone use continuing to rise so are the reports of 'butt dialing.' While these unintentionally dialed calls may be annoying to most, when they are made to emergency services numbers they become a public safety issue.
CBS News recently reported on the high number of unintentional calls made to 911 and found "that nearly 20 percent of the wireless calls they get each month are unintentional or abandoned calls; and they believe the vast majority of those accidental cell phone calls are butt dials."
'Butt dialed' calls happen when the cellphone keypad is accidentally pressed by the body when the device is carried in the back pocket, and sat down on. Contributing to the high number of "butt dialed' calls are cellphones where the emergency number is pre-programmed into the phone to speed up the dialing process, even when the phone is locked.
The 'butt dialed' calls "waste valuable time and put people's safety at risk," says an Evanston, Illinois, 911 spokesman. “I don’t think the public realizes how often this happens,” emergency services Coordinator Perry Polinski said. “When you consider the number of these types of calls that we receive, it really taxes our resources."
Polinski was referring to the 500 or so calls that are received by 911 each month that are result of someone "fumbling around in their bag for their cellphone, or by sitting down on the phone."
'Butt dialed' calls waste valuable resources because they require the operator to remain on the line till the call is dropped. Because the incompleted calls can only be tracked to a general location, 911 dispatchers must first try to return the call. If unable to make contact with the caller, officers are dispatched to determine if an emergency situation is underway.
Polanski said, many hours of time have been wasted by police officers searching an area where a 'butt dialed' called has been placed. The majority of these searches end when officers find the call was made unintentionally or by a child.
He said these non-emergency calls "could be reduced if cellphone users were just a little more careful." Polanski suggests, "cell phone users cover their keyboards when not in use. If you realize you have mistakenly dialed 911, stay on the line and let the operator know it was a mistake."
The life you save by avoiding the "butt dialing' scenario could be your own.