Accidental calls to 9-1-1 are a fact of life in any Emergency Communications Center (ECC). It’s ok, 9-1-1 call takers understand that people dial it mistakenly, often unbeknownst to them. What you choose to do when you accidentally call 9-1-1 can make a difference in whether a 9-1-1 call taker is available to take the next 9-1-1 call, which may be a life or death situation.
In the last 18 months, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center processed 19,906 abandoned calls, also called “9-1-1 hang ups”. What happens next may surprise some people.
As soon as a 9-1-1 call is initiated, it immediately enters the call processing system. If the person making the call hangs up at any time after the call is initiated, the call is still presented to a call taker. The call taker then attempts to make contact with the caller to ensure that everything is okay. Up to three return phone calls are made to the caller, including leaving a voice mail when available.
If the call originates from a landline phone, the police are dispatched to check on the welfare of persons at that address. If the call taker is able to make contact and is assured that there is no problem, the dispatch of police officers is canceled.
The average length of time for a call taker to process a 9-1-1 hang up is approximately three minutes. This is time that a call taker is not available to receive other 9-1-1 calls. Based on the above number of 9-1-1 hang ups in Arlington County in the last 18 months, this equates to almost 1000 human resource hours in the ECC spent just to adjudicate these calls.
If you accidentally call 9-1-1, please STAY ON THE LINE and let the call taker know that it was a mistake. This allows the call taker to be available for the next 9-1-1 call coming in rather than resolving a 9-1-1 hang up. By doing this, you just might be saving a life!
For further information, please contact:
Jennifer Meyers, Public Information Officer
Department of Public Safety Communications & Emergency Management