The spate of abandoned 911 calls in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) service area may not have been completely the cause of people dialing the emergency number and hanging up after all.
According to Deborah Jones-Middleton, RDBN’s emergency services program coordinator, Telus related issues have accounted for some abandoned calls being made.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Jan. 11, 2012, there was in excess of 100 abandoned calls in the RDBN service area during the emergency number’s first seven weeks of operation.
Stoney Stoltenberg RDBN director of electoral area A and 911 committee chair said abandoned calls complicated matters for call centre staff and emergency services. “It tied up services that could really be needed elsewhere,” he said.
However, at a recent RDBN board meeting Jones-Middleton said she had been in contact with Telus regarding abandoned call issues. She said some calls had originated from residences where people were sleeping, or not at home at the time the call was made.
In her report presented to the board, she said that of the 1001 calls made to 911 calls during December 2011, 20 per cent were abandoned calls.
Shaun Hall, from Telus media relations said to Lakes District News. “We did hear from the RDBN about a number of abandoned 911 calls being made and Telus has investigated the issue.”
Hall went on to say that the investigation uncovered a water leak in five residential lines that shared a cable.
He said the water leak resulted in calls from the lines being made to the 911 number. “The water leak caused a short and was sending out false signals … [resulting in] calls to 911, but the problem has been addressed and it was only happening for a short period of time.”
According to Hall the five lines were rerouted and the customers were quickly moved off the cable. “We are now working to replace the cable. It happens from time to time,” he said, adding that there was recently an instance in Smithers where they had issues with telephone lines due to damage done by a woodpecker.
Hall said he did not know how many calls were made to 911 as a result of the water leak.
He said some of the abandoned calls could be attributed to the water leak during that period of time, but not all of them.’
“The abandoned call issue will likely continue. You will continue to see these calls placed to 911 due to customers accidentally dialing the number, or pocket dialing from cell phones, but the technical issue has been addressed and is no longer a problem.”
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Sept. 28, 2011, Sharla Duchscherer, a dispatcher from the Prince George call centre where all local 911 calls are answered, said 911 hang ups create a lot of wasted time trying to confirm if there is an actual emergency.
She said that if there is a misdial, callers should stay on the line so call centre employees can confirm the call was not made due to an emergency.
Cell phones that disconnect from a 911 call take a lot of resources to find out what happened. Land lines are less complicated as the address and name of the registered owner of the telephone are displayed on call screens at the dispatch centre.
“When 911 is dialed from a cell phone, the call centre gets a GPS hit on the location of the caller within a 10 to 30 kilometre radius. A disconnected cell phone can take three people half an hour to find out what happened,” she said.
From the ‘go live’ date in October, until the end of December 2011 there was 2302 calls placed to 911 from the RDBN service area of those 58 per cent required the services of the RCMP, 18 per cent were for emergency medical services, four per cent were for fire related issues and the remaining 20 per cent were abandoned calls.