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Raleigh 911 hang-up calls growing at 'alarming pace'

Posted June 8, 2012

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— Raleigh police officers were dispatched to 3,501 hang-up calls to 911, or an average of 113 calls a day, last month, according to the Raleigh-Wake County Emergency Center, which says the number of 911 misdials is continuing at "an alarming pace" and straining both law enforcement agencies and 911 centers.

Since mandatory 10-digit dialing began in central North Carolina on March 31, the center's director, Barry Furey, says that the number of calls emergency dispatchers are answering within 10 seconds has dropped from 88.3 percent to 81.2 percent.

Prior to March, operators dispatched officers to an average of 30 hang-up calls per day.

Furey says he expects further delays this summer as real emergencies increasingly compete with unwarranted calls.

The problem has to do with callers mistakenly dialing 911, instead of the 919 area code, realizing their mistake and then hanging up.

When that happens, Furey says, operators have to call back the number to make sure there is not an emergency. If no one answers, they have dispatch an officer to the address associated with the call.

Misdialed 911 calls on the rise Misdialed 911 calls on the rise

The best advice he can give, he says, is for callers to be sure to dial the area code. If they do dial 911, he says, they should stay on the line and explain the mistake to the operator, but still that can take time away from an emergency call.

Hang-ups last month accounted for 12.8 percent of all calls to which Raleigh police responded, according to the emergency communications center.

For the first two weeks of May, the average number of daily misdials rose to 181, more than six times the normal amount prior to 10-digit dialing and up from a daily average of 172 in April. Numbers for the second half of the month showed no improvement.


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  • glarg Jun 11, 2012

    Paul Krugman is suggesting doing this in all area codes may end the recession

  • kermit60 Jun 11, 2012

    Isn't technology great? As someone once said, we have found the enemy and it is us.

  • Mon Account Jun 11, 2012

    "Simple solution, start fining people who call 911 and hang up. If they call mistakenly they can stay on the line and tell the operator that. If they just hang up; $1000 fine. Give it to education." chivegas

    Fine people for making a mistake related to an emergency system that we pay for?

  • chivegas Jun 8, 2012

    Simple solution, start fining people who call 911 and hang up. If they call mistakenly they can stay on the line and tell the operator that. If they just hang up; $1000 fine. Give it to education.

  • 37 Jun 8, 2012

    The only other area with a 91x area code as an overlay is NYC where 917 is used for cell phones. It would be worth the local Telcos checking with the carriers up there to see how they have dealt with similar 911 calls in error. Either that or send everyone to two weeks of area code camp like in "The Simpsons".

  • mikeyj Jun 8, 2012

    They (the system) brought this upon themselves as soon as they made 10 digits "mandatory". Less mandating of many things would solve a load of today's societal issues. Well; wouldn't it? Dang
    nanny state!

  • trianglerelic Jun 8, 2012

    What if the phone company identifies calls that start with 911. Maybe set up a computer program to look at the number entered, if it's 911 followed by a valid 919 area code number, maybe flag it as a potential typo for 911 operators. For example, if I were dialing 919-555-5555 and accidentally dial 911-555-5555 the 911 system would recognize the mistake and flag it, or play a recording to the user to check their number and redial....

  • Mr. Sensible Jun 8, 2012

    Well,, I guess a lot are because we have to dial 911,,, no 919 every time we dial a stupid phone now.

  • storchheim Jun 8, 2012

    maryallison1, that's what we call "exception programming" and it's not the best idea because then someone always has to remember to program around the exceptions. It's less convenient for people but much easier to find and fix errors. And that's really what you want when a system is as crucial as the phone lines.

    Besides, what happens when you have an existing number, you move or change numbers, and then eventually someone is assigned the number you had. Does the 7 digits still apply? See how complicated it can get?

    What frets my strings is when I get the automated message saying "you do not need to dial a 1 or 0 or the area code" when clearly, you need the area code. They never updated the message.

  • og Jun 8, 2012

    Though there may be a significant number of people who mis-dial 911, I can assure you that not all the issues are human error.

    The police showed up at my home several weeks ago, banging on the door claiming that we dialed 911. We had not. In fact, we had been on an incoming call at the time dispatch claimed we called them.

    A friend of mine had the same thing happen while he and his wife were watching TV. No one was even on the phone.

    Now, have you ever noticed all the wrong numbers you get? Well, I started asking folks what number they were trying to dial. I got answers all over the field, very few of them close to our numbers. I have dialed people only to be told I reached a wrong number when the correct number I dialed is clearly on the display of my phone.

    There is a problem with the AT&T switching system and has been for some time now. The assistant director of communications in Raleigh of course denies that there is any problem at all. And boy, is he arrogant about it.