Behind Surrey’s Rise in 911 Calls

by Jordan Richardson on March 30, 2010

Have you ever called 911 by mistake? Did embarrassment cause you to hang up immediately after realizing your mistake?

Apparently the city of Surrey in British Columbia is seeing a lot of this problem as of late and it is causing trouble for emergency responders. The problem in Surrey is getting so bad that responders have actually seen a jump by 40% in the amount of false or accidental 911 calls.

Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall says that the reason for at least a significant percentage of these calls is the international calling code for India. The India country code is 91 and the international calling code for New Delhi is 011, so you can imagine the confusion.

Now, the international calling code for New Delhi is actually supposed to be called before the country code for India, so the correct sequence should be 011-91. The mix-ups have led to some 20,000 false 911 calls in Surrey in 2009 alone, so Telus is devising a public relations blitz to deal with the issue and to highlight the problem.

Telus is calling on people who call 911 by accident to not hang up, first and foremost. The better idea is to stay on the line and admit to the mistake. Hanging up leads the emergency responders to either call back or dispatch emergency services to the location of the call, which is significantly more costly and embarrassing than merely admitting to misdialing.

Telus is also considering a host of different actions to help remind people of the correct way to place calls. One idea is to affix a sticker to phones reminding diallers of the proper sequence, while there are also plans to include notification on phone bills to those residences that call India frequently.

The city of Surrey is also planning to work with Telus to come up with a comprehensive plan to fix the problem, as the costly and dangerous results of dispatching RCMP to each and every mistaken 911 call could wind up representing some significant problems in the long run.

It is important to realize that 911 calls that are made by mistake are not punishable by law in that they are not viewed as “mischievous” by authorities.

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