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911 cellphone mistakes: The butt of jokes

Man talking on his cellphone.

Brett Lamb/iStockphoto/Brett Lamb/iStockphoto

Toronto police are asking cellphone users to take more care when they stow their devices away.

City residents "pocket dialled" emergency services about 107,000 times last year, police say. And another 116,000 people phoned 9-1-1 mistakenly while trying to dial another number.

Police will launch a campaign Monday morning asking people to "Lock it before you pocket" to help avoid the accidental calls.

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Constable Wendy Drummond said about 18 per cent of all emergency calls in Toronto last year were made by mistake. And while Toronto police only began tracking pocket dials recently, she said it's clear they're on the rise.

"It's definitely a growing problem," Constable Drummond said. "As technology and the phone products are changing out there, we are continuing to get an increased number of pocket dials."

Every time someone misdials 9-1-1, an operator has to phone that person back to make sure they're all right.

Police released a YouTube video on Sunday featuring audio from a real pocket-dialled 9-1-1 call, in which a man tells the operator, "I call you guys like every day, man. It's an accident. If you see my number, it's an accident."

Constable Drummond said police are trying to remind people that accidental 9-1-1 calls can be both costly and dangerous.

"When you've got a legitimate emergency, every second counts," she said. "When we receive a pocket dial or misdial, the amount of time that we have to spend getting someone back on line … that takes time away the operator could be using to deal with a legitimate emergency."

Police say mistaken 9-1-1 calls are a problem in other Canadian cities, too, and RCMP in Alberta recently issued a similar bulletin.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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