RICHMOND (WRIC)—Tens of thousands of hang-up calls to 911 are costing you money and wasting valuable time.
Last year, the City of Richmond's Emergency Communications Center received 42,266 abandoned calls. Some of those callers really needed help, but the majority of them dialed 911 by accident. Richmond Police are asking for the public's help to stop the problem.
"We just got a hang-up call from your address, is everything OK?"
This is a line local 911 dispatchers are saying too often; as cell phone usage has exploded, so has the number of 911 hang-up calls.
Police say the big problem is the majority of callers realize they've accidentally dialed 911 before a dispatcher answers. They hang up, but their call is far from over.
"The system doesn't allow us to disconnect the call until we've disconnected it at our end," said Richmond 911 Operations Director Lt. Thomas Nolan.
Every hang-up call is followed up by a return call from the dispatcher. If no one answers, the call is sent to another dispatcher, who sends out a police officer.
"Now we're tying up three people to handle a call that was purely an accident," Nolan said.
Another issue causing problems is old cell phones that are no longer connected to a provider. Parents often give those phones to kids as a toy.
"Those phones are still able to dial 911," said Nolan. "Unfortunately, that phone is being utilized as a play toy and that play toy is able to reach 911."
If you do accidentally call 911, police ask that you stay on the line and explain what happened. It will save money, work and a lot of time.
"We'd appreciate that, and it would work better for everybody involved," Nolan said.
In 2013, Richmond dispatchers spent more than 352 hours on hang-up calls—that's nearly 15 days with no breaks.
If you do decide to give your old cell phone to your kids to play with, be sure to remove the battery, so that no accidental calls can be made.
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