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This post was written by Bill Duggan, Director of Communications for the Andover Police Department and shared in a forum for public safety communicators called APCO. This article was found to be informative by CRESA's 9-1-1 Division Manager and recommended for sharing with the community:
The Cellular Telephone Industry Association reports that 94% of Americans now have cell phones. According to Earthworks and www.earth911.com/recycling/electronics, there are 500 MILLION used cell phones currently on shelves, in drawers, in toy boxes, or in landfills, and, 2 MILLION more are being added daily!
The environmental part of this may appear to be obvious, but, as a 911 Operator, I would like to help you see a few more things that can both save lives and help the environment.
According to KFOXTV.com, 07/22/10, 11 percent of El Paso's calls are “abandoned” or 911 Hang-up calls. According to a 2002 report from the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, “Misuse and Abuse of 911,” the California Highway Patrol (then the handler of almost all of California's 911 calls) estimated that between 1.8 million and 3.6 million of the 6 million wireless calls it received annually were “phantom” (“pocket dialing,” misdials and hang-ups). So what can you do to help?
NEVER THROW AWAY A CELL PHONE BECAUSE:
- They contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, lithium or antimony that will poison our communities; and,
- Old cell phones can save lives because Federal regulations (CFR Title 47, 20.18, b.) require that even deactivated cell phones, ones with no service contract, MUST STILL BE ABLE TO DIAL 911!
This means that you can:
- Keep it charged and in a safe place in your car or home so you have the ability to call 911 in an emergency if your active phone is stolen or damaged - it can save your life, or,
- Donate it to a domestic violence organization in your area. Typically, the perpetrator of domestic violence first removes the victim's ability to call for help. Having a hidden cell phone that can only dial 911 could save this person's life.
- You can also turn in old cell phones to Sprint Project Connect (who will recycle them and turn the net proceeds into supporting a website promoting online safety for kids, or Verizon's HopeLine program which supports victims of domestic violence, or, AT&T's Cell Phones for Soldiers, an initiative that uses funds from recycled cell phones to buy prepaid phone cards for active duty military members.
NEVER LET A CHILD PLAY WITH A CELL PHONE WITHOUT FIRST REMOVING THE BATTERY BECAUSE:
- Even deactivated cell phones can and do call 911. When your child presses the buttons (just like Mom and Dad) the phone will call 911 and an operator may hear crying, screaming, the TV, or nothing, but must still make every effort to try to determine if there is a real emergency. We can't call these phones back because they show up on our screens as a 911 area code, so all we can do is wonder what is going on and where.
- Active phones require 911 Operators to take the time to call these phones back if we can't speak to someone on the first call. Some police departments dispatch officers to these calls if they can determine the location it came from.
ELIMINATE “POCKET DIALING” where the emergency button is accidentally pressed while the phone is in the owner's pocket, purse or bra (According to the Toronto Globe and Mail published 1/7/11, Totonto reports these are 8% of their emergency calls):
- When buying a new cell phone, find out if it has been pre-programed for one-button dialing. If so either have the retailer remove this feature, or, buy another model;
- Reprogram your current phone so that it can not dial 911 by pressing just one button (instructions should be in your manual or available online); or
- Keep the phone in a case or cover that prevents pocket dialing
IF YOU DIAL 911 BY MISTAKE, STAY ON THE LINE
- Even if you do not hear it ring, it probably went through to us. If you hang up, we have to call you back. If you do not answer, a number of agencies will then dispatch an officer to see if you are all right. This wastes not only the time of the 911 Operator, but also patrol officers
- Everyone makes mistakes. Don't be embarrassed, I've called 911 by mistake myself. Just stay on and tell us it was a mistake.
If you follow these simple steps, you will help the environment, and, save lives.
The bottom line is, THE TIME 911 OPERATORS SPEND ON FALSE, ABANDONED OR PHANTOM 911 CALLS IS TIME THAT SOMEONE WITH A REAL LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY MAY BE ON HOLD AND SECONDS COUNT IN SAVING LIVES.