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Ada County Dispatch sees an uptick in accidental 911 calls

The director believes recent smartphone updates are likely causing most of the misdials.

ADA COUNTY, Idaho — Ada County’s already busy dispatch center has been a lot busier the past month — all because of increased 911 misdials.

Last year in May, dispatchers answered about 400 911 hang-up welfare checks, director Zachary Walls said. Over the past month, they’ve answered more than 800.

He believes the increase is mostly because of recent smartphone updates.

“We've noticed some cell phones, iPhones and Androids, allowing phones to enter into emergency mode by just either holding down the button or pressing a series of buttons, which then automatically calls 911,” Walls said.

Despite this, he isn’t encouraging people to turn off their Emergency SOS. Walls said people should simply take a look at their phone settings and see what emergency notifications are turned on.

People should also be aware of where they place their phones, he said.

“If they put their phone in a cup holder, or maybe a jogging stroller, or sometimes even just in their pocket, that could press the buttons and then cause their phone to call 911 without their knowledge,” Walls said.

He said misdials take away from people actually needing help. Since dispatchers treat all calls with the same importance, they’re obligated to call everyone back – even if someone hangs up.

“It ties up the phone line as well as the dispatcher from other emergency calls that might be coming in,” Walls said.

If someone realizes they called 911 accidentally, he said they should stay on the line because the call still registers even if they hang up quickly. Once the call goes through, the responding dispatcher can then make sure everything is okay.

Walls said most hang-ups are legitimate accidents and not prank calls.

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