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 Information on False-Abandoned 911 Calls

Idaho County, ID– Released by the Idaho County Sheriffs Office

The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office 911 Dispatch Center has seen a significant increase in the amount of false, abandoned, hang-up and pocket dial 911 calls received recently. Most of these calls are coming from some kind of cellular device, whether it be a cell phone, watch phone, Ipad, etc.

Some 911 centers nationwide are seeing a double-digit increase in call volume, due in part to an iPhone 14 setting that automatically makes a 911 call if it detects the phone has had a hard impact, such as the phone falling off the back of a pickup, a phone being dropped, or a person being involved in a car crash. Google Pixel phones also have this crash detection setting. Another Idaho 911 center had a cell phone call them over 50 times. The cell phone user was at a local theme park and the sensation of the rides at the theme park caused the crash detection setting to go off numerous times. Any activity, whether it be a roller coaster, a jolt or any activity can be misinterpreted as a crash and cause the alert to call 911.

This setting for an iPhone is under Settings, then go to Emergency SOS and it is labeled ‘Call After Severe Crash’. There are also other options labeled ‘Call with 5 Button Presses’ and ‘Call with Hold and Release’. These are automatically enabled, but you are able to turn them off with the slide of the button. The setting for an Android phone is under Settings, then go to ‘Safety and emergency’ and there is an Emergency SOS that is automatically enabled unless turned off by sliding the button to off. You do have the ability to also sound an alarm with this countdown. Most users are not even aware of this new setting or that they have the ability to turn it off.

iPhone 14 and other models also have Emergency SOS via satellite which relays information from the iPhone Emergency Satellite Relay Center to the correlating 911 center when the cellular device is somewhere without cell service or Wi-Fi coverage. It comes into the center as a Text-to-911 with GPS coordinates. Our center has also had several of these that ended up being accidental calls.

Any cell phone, whether Android or iPhone, can accidentally call 911 if the side buttons are held down too long, or if the side button is pushed a set number of times simultaneously. Some cell phones will also start a countdown and then call 911. If you catch it before the countdown is over, you can cancel it from calling 911. However, if you do not catch it, it will call 911 and continue to call 911 every so many minutes until you notice it and stop it.

Our 911 center had a single cell phone pocket dial 911 over 7 times one morning. It was an apparent pocket dial as you could hear construction tools in the background as well as people talking on each call. It was verified they were pocket dials. A week later, the same number pocket dialed 911 several more times. It was once again verified that they were pocket dials. A week later, the same number dialed 911 two more times. On this occasion an officer was sent to this person’s location and he was asked to not keep his phone in his pocket anymore due to the amount of pocket dial calls made to 911 over the period of the last three weeks.

Our 911 telecommunicators respond to every 911 call, treating each and every call that comes in as an emergency. When an abandoned/accidental/pocket dial call is received, our telecommunicators make every effort to reach the caller through either call and/or text message.

We would like to ask everyone living in or recreating in Idaho County, to be aware of these emergency features on their phones and please be aware of what can happen. If you do call 911 on accident, please stay on the line and speak to the telecommunicator, rather than just hanging up. If you get a text, please respond to the text and let us know that it was accidental. If you get a phone call or a text about your phone dialing 911, please consider moving your phone from the location you had it to a different location to try to prevent it from happening again. If we do get multiple calls from the same number on different days, we will be sending an officer to make contact with you.

The time and resources spent following up on these calls has the potential to impact the handling of actual emergency calls for assistance. As our 911 center continues to get busier for the summer months, it’s important to limit the amount of unnecessary phone calls into the center. This frees up time for our telecommunicators to deal with actual emergencies and provide services to our citizens and First Responders.