‘Butt Dialing’ and ‘Pocket Calls’ burden 911 operators

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By Leigh Remizowski


NEW YORK (CNN) — A “pocket dial” mistake can result in an unwanted phone call, annoying for the recipient and potentially embarrassing to the caller.

But a new study found a staggering number of those apparently accidental calls in New York City are made to emergency responders, jamming up 911 lines in a city that has prided itself on its ability to respond in a crisis.

Nearly 4 million of those calls were made to the city’s emergency call centers in 2010, according to a recent Winbourne Consulting report, commissioned by the city after a massive blizzard delayed first responders and left Mayor Michael Bloomberg open to criticism.

That’s more than one-third of some 11 million emergency calls made in New York each year, the study found, which was released Friday.

Those calls were 19 seconds or less.

Authorities determined that they were likely accidental and say unnecessary communications add an increased burden on emergency response systems.

“The increased proliferation of cellular telephones has caused a dramatic increase in the number of accidental 911 calls made,” the report said.

In 2011, the Federal Communications Commission issued a report estimating that 70% of all 911 calls — intentional or mistaken — were made from wireless devices.

The consulting firm recommended implementing a citywide information campaign to alert the public of the issue and to streamline systems between the police and fire departments, among other recommendations.