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911 hang-up calls skyrocket in Raleigh, Cary

Posted April 26, 2012

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— 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.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Rebelyell55 Apr 27, 2012

    And it'll continue for a while until people get use to the new requirement.

  • Mon Account Apr 27, 2012

    "They SHOULD make the phone co. pay for this problem...there are multiple software fixes out there other than forcing their customer to dial a gazillion numbers to make a stupid phone call...the phone co is just to cheap to fix the problem....!!!!!" - SmokeWagon

    Enumerate the software fixes, please. You seem to have the answers in all your posts but no follow-up with a rational response.

  • gingerlynn Apr 27, 2012

    Apparently the Durham people are smarter, only a 5% increase in calls instead of 300% LOL

  • Mon Account Apr 27, 2012

    My sister's doorbell rang one day and there was an officer at the door. She asked how she could help him and he asked if she was in trouble or needed assistance. She got pretty nervous and said "uhm... no, why?" and he lowered his voice and said in a whisper "if you are being held against your will, blink twice very slowly."

    She insisted all was ok and he asked to come in. He walked around and saw everything was normal, just kids at play and a mom running a house.

    Turns out my barely-2 year old nephew was playing 'telephone' and hit the pre-programmed emergency button. The officer explained that they have to come out for all non-completed 911 conversations and it's a fairly common occurrence.

  • kellypsnll Apr 27, 2012

    At my place of work I have to dial an additional 9 just to get a line out. So having to dial 11 numbers to talk to someone is insane. But such is life.

  • glarg Apr 27, 2012

    "This is a horrible suggestion. People may hang up for fear of being caught or the perp may end the call for them."

    Yeah because there is a giant problem with that. "The Killer" has broken in and dives across the room to pull out the phone cord in the 1 second difference between when they actually complete dialing the last '1' and the call connected but before the victim could say "glarg" to the operator. That must be at least one case per decade.

    The are lots of parts of the country where the police have stopped even reporting to certain routine types of crime. Wasting resources dispatching law enforcement to mis-dials brings the triangle one step closer to that.

  • Kaitlyn Apr 27, 2012

    "That qualifies as a complaint in your world?"

    Complaint? I never said I was upset about him showing up. sheesh..

  • baracus Apr 27, 2012

    Gosh, before reading the comments here I never realized that one could gain such insight into another's intelligence or mindset simply from the fact that they mis-dialed a phone number.

  • AtALost Apr 27, 2012

    "For Pete's sake people, is it that hard for you to dial 919 before you dial the number?"

    Unfortunately it is. We used to encourage intelligence, now many prefer ignorance because it's easier to get $$ from those impressed by shiny objects with no real value. Many cashiers can barely do basic math. Interesting that many who can't speak English calculate change quicker than the average English speaking employee. Ignorance is bliss for business. A fool and his/her money are soon parted. Sadly, the same is true for tax paying citizens burdened with cleaning up after the fools.

  • hpr641 Apr 27, 2012

    I accidentally dialed 911 about a year ago and told the dispatcher I made a mistake. I still had an officer show up at my door in about 5 minutes to see if everything was ok.
    - Kaitlyn

    That qualifies as a complaint in your world?