Butt dials: 30 percent of 911 calls in San Francisco

A research project found that as the number of emergency calls increased in the past few years, the number of dispatches decreased


SAN FRANCISCO — A Google research project found that 30 percent of San Francisco’s 911 calls coming from mobiles are accidental "butt dials"; calls accidentally made.

Even as emergency calls to 911 has increased 30 percent between 2011 and 2014 the calls initiating Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) incidents has actually decreased, BBC reported.

When the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management noticed the steady growth in annual call volume, it wanted to investigate the reasons behind it. Google offered their help to research the issue.

The report found that the issue of "butt dials" is a major strain for 911 dispatchers, as every call needs to be investigated, because it’s hard to tell if the call was accidental or the person who made the call is unable to talk.

In a survey, 80 percent of dispatchers said chasing these calls back was time-consuming and the biggest "pain point" in their job.

This research was limited to San Francisco, but the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that in New York City about 50 percent of all incoming emergency calls from mobile phones are pocket dials.

"This is a huge waste of resources, raises the cost of providing 911 services, depletes morale, and increases the risk that legitimate 911 calls — and first responders — will be delayed," FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly wrote.

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