When this region went to 10-digit dialing, it was expected that people might misdial 919 and, instead, press 911. That expectation came to fruition. But what’s surprising is that the problem persists.
To be sure, the number of misdials has fallen. County dispatchers don’t report as many 911 hang ups today as they did in the immediate aftermath of the dialing change. But county statistics show there remain a significant number of misplaced calls to 911.
What’s perhaps more disconcerting is the fact that many of us who dial the wrong number hang up without waiting to explain our mistake. And to compound the problem, we decline to answer our phones with emergency dispatchers call back to check on us.
It’s important to remember, if you call 911 by mistake, the dispatchers can still find you. In fact they are obligated to check on you. Consider the possibilities that run through a dispatcher’s mind when someone calls their emergency line and then doesn’t respond. For all the dispatchers know, the caller could be in danger and unable to answer the phone. Operating under a policy of better safe than sorry, dispatchers are going to send a police officer or sheriff’s deputy to find you. If they do that because you misdialed 911 and ignored their callback, well, then that’s a huge waste of their time and resources, not to mention the public’s money.
So keep a few things in mind. If you dial 911 by mistake, there’s no penalty. Just stay on the line and tell the dispatcher it was a mistake. We’d like to meet the person who has never dialed a wrong number. You wouldn’t be the first person who called 911 by mistake. It’s no biggie.
If you realize your mistake and, out of reflex, hang up, be sure to answer the phone when they call you back. That’s a much cheaper, more efficient way to resolve the matter than having to open your door to a sheriff’s deputy or a town police officer because they got a report of a 911 call with no one on the line.