Raleigh, N.C. — Hang-up calls to 911 are surging in central North Carolina, especially in Raleigh and Cary, where emergency communications officials are urging callers to dial carefully and remain on the line in case of a misdial.
The Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center has dispatched law enforcement officers to more than 3,500 hang-up calls since 10-digit dialing began March 31, Director Barry Furey said Thursday.
He stressed the word "dispatched," he said, because those numbers only reflect incidents that couldn't be resolved on the phone.
"When callers stay on the line to report their error, or answer our call back of their hang-up, an officer is not sent. However, these activities take a significant amount of staff time and represent a geometrically larger number of calls," Furey said.
More than 2,800 of the misdialed calls were in Raleigh, he said. Another 1,000 calls were relayed to the Wake County Sheriff's Office for response.
Prior to the area code requirement, the Raleigh-Wake 911 center dispatched officers to about 900 hang-up calls per month. From March to April, then, that number increased by nearly four times.
The City of Raleigh is preparing to launch a "Keep an Eye on the Finger" campaign to address the issue.
In Cary, the number of 911 hang-up calls has tripled – from an average of 350 hang-up calls each month from January through March to nearly 1,050 calls in April, town officials said.
That's why the Town of Cary is urging people to stay on the line rather than hang up in the case of a misdial.
"If you dial 911 in error, do not hang up; stay on the line to explain there is no emergency," town officials said in a news release Thursday. "If a 911 call is answered with a hang-up, emergency communications officers are required to contact the caller or dispatch an officer to the call's estimated location to ensure a problem does not exist."
Jim Soukup, emergency communications director for Durham and Durham County, said the center averages about 100 misdials to 911 daily. He said that it has only seen a 5-percent increase since ten-digit dialing began.
"We are not experiencing the issues to the degree that our surrounding counties and municipalities are experiencing," he said. "However, 100 misdials to 911 daily is still too high and it does tie up resources both in the communications center and in the police department."
The state Utilities Commission instituted 10-digit dialing ahead of a new area code – 984 – to accommodate a growing population and the need for new telephone numbers in Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Orange, Wake and Wayne counties.
That makes dialing 10 digits – area code and seven-digit phone number – necessary. Local calls don't require a 1 or 0, but long-distance calls still require a 1 plus the area code and number.
Three-digit emergency and information numbers, like 911 and 411, have not changed.