Help Prevent Accidental Calls to 9-1-1

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair


Communications Services

After experiencing a dramatic surge in accidental calls to 9-1-1 in the last month, the Toronto Police Service is asking members of the public to help prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls.

But if you do mistakenly call 9-1-1, please stay on the line.

“If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, please stay on the phone and advise us that it is a mistake,” said Communication Services Acting Manager Tamara Nalon. “Otherwise, we are reaching out to call you or text you to confirm that you are safe and that can be time consuming.”

When it takes operators a minimum of 90 seconds to call each person back, that is time that could be better spent responding to emergency 911 calls, when every second counts.

She said accidental calls to Canada’s largest and busiest call centre have always been an issue but it has intensified.

“In fact, we have a desk set up to deal with pocket dials and hang-ups,” said Nalon. “Since the start of April, it really started to ramp up in relation to smartphones with Android operating systems. We are getting a significant volume that are pocket-dials and people are telling us the phone is calling on its own without them touching anything.”

On one day during this period, 50% of 9-1-1 calls were hang-ups without responses.

“We average about 5,200 calls daily,” said Nalon. “Recently, the average has been about 6,500.”

Communications operators are now sending text messages to those who hang up noting they can call back if there is an emergency.

It is vital for people to stay on the line when they accidentally call 9-1-1.

“This is particularly important if there is an emergency as your first call stays in queue and your second call will be further back in the same queue. Please answer the call and note that your phone may identify the call as spam because the phone is blocked,” Nalon said.

She said there are a number of things that people can do to avoid making accidental 9-1-1 calls.

How to prevent accidental 9-1-1 calls:

  • Review the settings on your mobile phone to choose your emergency alert settings and to lock it appropriately, based on your needs. (Note: review these periodically as your device settings may reset after a manufacturer’s update). To update your emergency settings:
    • iPhone: click on “Settings” and “Emergency SOS”
    • Android: click on “Settings” and “Safety and emergency”
  • Store your phone properly so it is not bouncing around in your purse or in your pocket to be sat on. If the side button is pressed five times, it could initiate a 9-1-1 call.
  • Do not let children play with active or old phones. Even if your old phone is unregistered with no SIM card or cellphone plan, it can still call 9-1-1.
  • Do not program 9-1-1 into your phone.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 to see if it is working.

What to do if you call 911 by mistake:

  • Stay on the line. When you call 911, the call is tracked in the queue, even if you hang up. Please stay on the line to inform the operator that you are safe. This is particularly important if there is an emergency, as your first call stays in queue and your second call will be further back in the queue. 
  • If you do hang up, an operator the will text or call you to make sure you are safe. Please answer the call, and note that your phone may identify the call as spam because the phone number is blocked.

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