The Danger of Non-Emergency Dropped Calls

February 22, 2016


Below is a guest post by Jessica Hoff, a Business Development Representative for Smart911, who has firsthand experience with the challenges plaguing 9-1-1 centers and first responders.

hoff1As I drove home from work yesterday, I heard the faint sound of sirens and saw an ambulance approaching in my rear-view mirror. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, how often do we stop to wonder where that ambulance is going? The first thought that came to mind was time. All any of us can hope for, is more time. As a citizen, I did all I could to support those first responders but what else was needed?

I’ve been on the other end waiting for first responders to arrive. I remember feeling anxious and helpless. My brother swallowed a water bottle cap and after dialing 9-1-1, it felt like eternity for the first responders to arrive. We later learned that all EMS first responders were on other calls, delaying my brother’s rescue. I remember thinking, “What if their emergency was not as life-threatening as my brother’s? What if these calls were non-emergency situations?”

I now work for a service that provides the technology used to improve response in these emergencies called Smart911. A dispatcher can now communicate over 2-way SMS with callers or responders on a non-verbal call, hang up, poor coverage, or when calls are dropped greatly reducing the number of unresolved cases. So what does this all mean? This means that a non-emergency dropped call could be cleared through Smart911Chat instead of dispatching for everyone, which affects time and resources. My brother’s incident might have taken precedence over a non-emergency dropped/abandoned call that day.

A recent study reports that Michigan resolved 10% of their abandoned calls across the state since Smart911’s Smart911Chat SMS feature was implemented. The drastic reduction was due in part to the fact that those individuals were more apt to text back a 10-digit number than answer an unknown 10-digit number after accidently dialing 9-1-1.

hoff21Instead of wasting precious resources, these calls could be cleared by a simple text message. With Smart911Chat, a non-emergency pocket dial will no longer distract responders that could be helping during a real emergency situation. Nationwide the FCC reports that 75% or more of all calls to 9-1-1 originate from a wireless device. The specific challenges related to wireless calls include: being able to obtain an accurate enough location to send emergency responders to, if the caller is unable to effectively communicate, as well as a tremendous number of inadvertent calls to 9-1-1. These inadvertent calls, sometimes referred to as “pocket dials,” drain the resources of an already-busy PSAP and law enforcement agency as both attempt to determine whether there is an actual emergency.

We have also seen Smart911Chat be leveraged in domestic violence. In a recent example, an individual called 9-1-1, but was unable to speak because she feared that verbal communication with 9-1-1 would precipitate or escalate the assault. The 9-1-1 dispatcher sent her a text through Smart911Chat, and the dispatcher was able to determine where she was in the house and all entry and exit points. The officers showed up with their lights off and were able to arrest the dangerous man and prevent a tragedy. This not only helped the victim, but provided better situational awareness for the first responders.

I’ll end with a quote from Steve Jobs, “What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” At Smart911 we work with hardworking intelligent people every day who have done wonderful things with our tools and technology.


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