Wednesday, May 31, 2023

BISMARCK, N.D. — Facing a similar trend experienced by dispatch centers across the country, the North Dakota Division of State Radio has taken an influx of 911 hang-up calls or misdials over the past year. As May ends, State Radio has had more than 1,600 hang-ups or misdials compared to about 440 at the same time last year – about four times more than average.

The issues stem from changes to mobile device emergency settings, some of which have automatic crash detection technology and features that will dial 911 when certain buttons are pressed. Some phones have settings where 911 is dialed when the power and volume buttons are held down simultaneously. A 911 call might also be initiated when pressing the power button five times in rapid succession. Mobile users can check the settings on their devices to avoid a misdial or talk to their service providers.

“Even if you do misdial, please stay on the line and let our dispatchers know that the call was a mistake,” said Darin Anderson, North Dakota State Radio Division director. “We have a checklist and hang-up procedure we use that requires time and can put a significant strain on public safety resources. If there is a hang-up, we still need to do call backs and confirm the caller is OK.”

Upon receiving a 911 hang-up call, emergency dispatchers will call the number back to ensure there is not an emergency. If contact is not made with that caller, they will use GPS location information generated by the call to dispatch law enforcement. This can result in law enforcement expending resources for a potential non-emergency.

“Each time we are dispatched for a hang-up 911 call, our troopers could be out in the field, patrolling and providing help to those who truly need it,” said Sgt. Wade Kadrmas, North Dakota Highway Patrol. “Those calls can really take away from our normal duties. We understand that mistakes happen. No one gets in trouble for misdialing 911, but it’s critically important that the person stays on the line to communicate with our dispatchers. It saves a lot of time.”

Anderson suggests a few additional guidelines to assist emergency dispatchers and first responders:

  • If you accidentally dial 911, don’t hang up. Stay on the line to let a dispatcher know you are OK.
  • If you misdial 911 and do hang up, immediately answer the returned call from dispatchers to let them know you are OK.
  • Talk to your kids about using 911 and when it is appropriate to call. Don’t let kids play with old cell phones unless they no longer work, or the battery is removed. Deactivated cell phones can still dial out to 911.
  • Turn off the “Emergency SOS” setting on your phone if you think you might not need it. If it is activated, avoid placing your phone in cupholders or your pocket where buttons can be bumped accidentally.