The number of 911 "butt dials" or accidental 911 calls is becoming a huge concern for emergency services, according to a newly released Google report.
It seems that as much as 30 percent of all 911 calls in San Francisco are actually butt dials, which is quite alarming. The overall number of 911 calls in San Francisco saw a dramatic spike in 2014, increasing 28 percent compared with 2011.
The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) found this increase both worrisome and odd, so it decided to investigate. Google frequently gets involved in projects aiming to help society, so it lend a hand and collaborated with the DEM to get to the bottom of things.
Google released the findings on Monday, October 5, and the results are even more alarming than the increase itself. According to the report, 30 percent of a sample of 197 calls made to 911 were actually so-called butt dials — phone calls placed accidentally by a device in a pocket or a purse. All of these calls went into the computer-aided dispatch system.
Of these butt dials, 88 percent actually got a call back from the dispatcher, with this process taking between five seconds and two and a half minutes — at average, one minute and 14 seconds. That adds up to a lot of wasted time for an emergency response system that's already facing overwhelming demand and could use that time for people who actually need help.
Google's report draws attention to a comprehensive report the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published back in 2014, detailing harmful consumer wireless behavior in relation to 911 calls. According to that report, accidental dials from devices that are not sufficiently secured have become a unique yet major challenge for many 911 call centers.
"In fact, while the full scope of the problem is unknown, the FCC reported that roughly 70% of 9-1-1 calls at New York City's PSAPs are made by wireless devices, and that at least 50% or more are the result of pocket dialing," Google notes in its report. "Furthermore, the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA) reported that pocket dialing accounted for 30% of wireless 9-1-1 calls in 2014."
This shows that accidental 911 dials are a nationwide issue, not just a common occurrence in San Francisco. That 50 percent of all emergency calls received by NYPD proved to be butt dials, according to that FCC report, amounts to a whopping 84 million calls.
Google added that SF dispatchers were often too busy to note all unintentional calls they received, so the true scale of the issue is even greater than reported.