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Kelowna 911 call centre flooded with false calls

Staff at the RCMP’s local 911 call centre are speaking out in the hopes of reducing the large number of accidental calls made to the emergency number, wasting time that could be spent responding to real emergencies.

In a two week period last month, the call centre, based in Kelowna, received 1,938 abandoned calls to 911, averaging out to 138 calls daily that operators and police officers had to track down and verify.

“We calculated that just over 110 hours were spent by operators in locating and verifying abandoned calls, which equates to about eight hours per day,” said Staff Sgt. Troy Gross, manager of the Kelowna 911 Operations Communications Centre (OCC). “That time is exponentially longer for police officers on the road to follow up on abandoned calls.”

“That precious time could be spent on investigating more serious offences and responding to real emergencies,” said Gross.

And the problem is not just confined to last month.

In 2010, the OCC, which serves 660,000 people in the Interior, received 221,073 calls, of which 46,033 were abandoned. Over half (53 per cent) were generated from mobile devices.

Operators are required to call back dropped calls to determine whether they are real emergencies, Gross noted.

If the operator is unable to get a hold of anyone, attempts to locate the caller are the next step and a police officer is dispatched to verify the call physically.

Determining the location of a cell phone dropped/abandoned call requires much more effort. It means contacting the cell service provider to obtain subscriber information, obtaining their GPS coordinates and then dispatching police to the location.

Operators and officers alike are asking the public to please stay on the line if you accidentally call 911 and simply tell the operator there is no emergency. The operator will appreciate you saving them the time.

Additionally, pick up the phone when you receive a call back after accidentally dialing the emergency line. This will avoid having a police officer knock on your door.

Other very useful tips to eliminate accidental dialing of 911 include:

• Removing your mobile phones and wireless devices from your pockets while you are driving or in a car to avoid accidental “pocket dialing.”

• Removing 911 from your programmed speed dials whether on your mobile phone or land line.

• If you realize you have dialed 911 by accident, please call back to let an operator know there is no emergency.

For more information on when to call for emergency assistance, visit www.bc.rcmp.ca.

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