The Dukes County Sheriff’s Office Regional Emergency Communication Center, which processes all 911 calls for Martha’s Vineyard, has been experiencing a recent increase in accidental 911 calls. The center has received an average of 18 accidental calls to 911 daily this summer, with a jump to around 60 accidental calls over the weekend of July 18.
Dukes County Sheriff Ogden asks the residents and visitors of our community to consider taking precautionary measures.
“Accidental calls to 911 are burdensome on our law enforcement agencies,” Ogden said in a press release, “taking time away from true emergencies and tying up resources, particularly during the busy summer season.”
Major Susan Schofield, who manages the communications center, said that the increase in the daily accidental call volume is likely due to new smartphone technology.
“I think with a lot of new iPhones and other phones that are being made now, there is a feature that if you drop it or bang it into something, it automatically dials unless you turn that off in your settings,” said Major Schofield. “A lot of people will put their phones back into their bags and they won’t lock them. That’s another issue. I don’t know why it’s gone so crazy, but the numbers have just jumped enormously.”
Schofield said the communications center has determined these calls have been largely accidental, oftentimes without the callers realizing that they’ve made such a call.
“Anytime anyone calls, depending on how it comes in, a police officer is always given the information,” said Schofield. “We try to find the location, and the officer goes and verifies with the person that made the call that they do not have a true emergency. I would say none of them are pranks for sure.”
The Dukes County Sheriff’s Office have suggested several options to prevent accidental calls, including: locking devices before putting them in a pocket or bag; stowing devices safely during physical activity (as many devices have 911 auto-dial features that are triggered upon impact); keeping devices out of the hands of young children; and considering the option of disabling 911 auto-dial features if devices misdial frequently.
In the event of a misdial, telecommunicators ask that callers please remain on the line so that they can screen the call and make sure the caller is safe.
“We are trying to tell people to just let it ring to us and talk to us,” said Schofield. “It saves us a lot of time that we’d take to research where the person is, and to call back in order for the officer to quickly determine that the person does not have a true emergency.”
There is also a PSA on preventing accidental calls at dukescountysheriff.com/recc.