MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — 911 centers across Michigan say they are seeing a rise in 911 calls — not because of emergencies, rather by accident.
The Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority says it saw a 24% jump in accidental calls for this week compared to the same week last year. Even CCCDA Executive Director Michael Armitage has made an accidental call.
“I was out mowing the lawn. I had my phone in my pocket. It must’ve been pressing the side button as I was walking through the lawn,” Armitage said. “I had my AirPods in and all of a sudden, I hear the phone is ringing or the phone is making a call. Sure enough, it was to 911.”
While things like Apple Watches may be part of the increase, Erin Allwardt, CCCDA’s quality assurance and training supervisor, believes there are other factors.
“Some are kiddos playing on the phone. But lately, it’s just been open lines,” Allwardt said. “When you are in a dispatch center, when you are a 911 dispatcher, your senses automatically are in tune. You’re going by listening, not seeing, what’s happening… In a lot of these cases, we have nothing to go on, so we’re really sending (police, fire and/or EMS) into the unknown. It does bring a heightened sense of urgency, but also a heightened sense of frustration.”
To try to stop accidental calls, the dispatch authority is surveying anyone who made an accidental 911 call since May 1.
“If we can find the common denominator, that’ll help us work with the National 911 Association and be able to hopefully have a conversation with whatever technology developer it is to hopefully help them rectify the issue,” Armitage said.
The survey can be accessed here.
If you mistakenly dial 911, dispatchers say to stay on the line to explain what happened so they know there’s not an emergency.
“You’re not going to be in trouble. It saves us so much time to be able to just talk to you and verify there’s not an emergency,” Armitage explained. “Then we can move onto the next call and close that out.”
Allwardt added, “If you disconnect and see the accident and you’re like ‘Oh my gosh, what have I done?’ Then you’re using up that resource and that time it takes away from somebody else’s actual emergency.”