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Germantown officers urge people to protect against accidental emergency calls

Aug. 25, 2014

Germantown — It happens to everyone from time to time. Whether the giver or the receiver, in the age of Smartphones, pocket dial phone calls are becoming a reality of life. But for the Germantown Police Department, the way of the technological future is taking away from how they do their jobs in the present.

Mistaken 911 calls to the department are at an all-time high in the village, according to Police Chief Peter Hoell.

A rustling around in the background, non-responsiveness from the caller, and general fuzzy sound to the call usually alerts dispatch officer Carrie Ross to the occurrence of one of these calls, but she said none of that affects her response to the matter. Even if the call is ended by the caller, Ross said dispatchers make every effort to reach the person to ensure their safety, including a follow-up after the fact.

While the department receives an average of as many as seven pocket dial 911 calls in an average day, Hoell said the department received more than double that many on Friday, August 22. From the time of initial call to a police response to the original location of origin, it can take as long as a half-hour for the department to appropriately rule out potential suspicious activity associated with each call. The process for Ross is the same regardless of the origin of the call.

Though it only accounts for about five percent of what could be perceived as misdialed emergency calls, Hoell said there are instances when police respond to potential accidental call that turns out to be of legitimate concern. Of the 15 pocket dial calls received on August 22, there was one that alerted police to a domestic violence incident, which Hoell said is the most common silver lining in the technological advancement of cellphone emergency calls to the department.

When it comes to making positive change, Hoell said it falls in the hands of the cellphone user to determine the best way of preventing accidental calls, not just to the department but to anyone who may not appreciate a pocket dial. Among his suggestions were to purchase a carrier for the device to help prevent accidental calls, or work with an individual carrier to see what options they provide for emergency calling.

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