A spokesperson for the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department said they’ve received about 95,000 wireless calls to the 911 emergency hotline since Jan. 2014 and they estimate that approximately 20 percent of those calls were made in error.
According to a report by the Contra Costa Times, police and sheriff’s departments throughout California have said they often deal with the same problem. Representatives in San Francisco say that roughly 20% of their 911 calls are due to butt dials, purse dials or other types of mistakes.
Dispatchers say they always treat every call as if it were an emergency, and if a call is abandoned before they can speak with the caller, they initiate a callback to see if that person needs assistance. As you can imagine, these callbacks eat up hours of time each week.
Sometimes, if they can’t reach the caller, they’ll send law enforcement personnel out to investigate. All in all it is costly to these agencies and it’s costly to taxpayers. Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department employees remind people to also be careful about letting small children or toddlers play with cell phones, as they’ve been known to place accidental 911 calls as well.