We’ve all dialed numbers we didn’t mean to when we have our phones in our back pockets. I’ve certainly gotten a one-minute voicemail that consisted of nothing but static and jumbled noise, or even the sound of the caller talking to someone else while unaware that their phone has called me. This phenomenon is known as butt dialing, or pocket dials, and the phones usually call random string of numbers or a selection off your contacts list. But according to recent reports, nearly 40 percent of 911 emergency calls in New York City stem from your behinds, and that’s no prank at all.
In the Big Apple, about 38 percent of approximately 10.4 million calls to 911 in 2010 were considered accidental or false alarms. These calls were “19 seconds or less” with no response on the other line when the dispatcher picked up. The data, provided by New York Daily News, calculates that this average of 10,700 false calls a day has caused more time wasted by dispatchers than the 3,495,716 calls in which police cars were actually sent to the real emergencies. The number continued to increase in the first quarter of 2011, bumping the percentage of 911 butt dials to 39 percent. These percentages of butt dials contribute to slower overall response time by 911 NYPD dispatchers.
Considering how the accidental dials are causing a huge waste of resource, it’s surprising to see that the city has not done much to curb the false alarms. There are small plans for 911 dispatchers to track butt dial numbers to call them back and alert them of the accident, but that seems like it should be someone else’s job when officers should be paying attention to incoming calls. Honestly, what can you do to make calling 911 on a real emergency more efficient while proving you called them on purpose? Perhaps making the dialer press one more number to authenticate could help, but will the extra few seconds actually do harm in a time-sensitive emergency situation?
While the city figures out its own solution to this odd problem, remember to keep your phone screen locked to prevent emergency dials. If you can, keep your phones in your front pocket so you won’t accidentally sit on them either. We know you can’t help it sometimes, and you don’t mean to waste officers’ time, but every little effort helps.
Have you ever made or received an embarrassing butt dial? Tell us your stories in the comments!
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