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Stay On the Line: Accidental 911 Calls Happen, Here's What to Do

The dreaded butt-dial can lead to awkward conversations with family or hurried hang-ups with exes. But what about if your smart device accidentally calls 911? No worries, it happens all the time. In fact, Buncombe County’s 911 Call Center gets upward of 12,000 abandoned 911 calls every six months. If, or likely when, it happens to you - just know that we need you to stay on the line so we can quickly and confidently confirm that you are not in danger and our dedicated dispatchers can divert their attention back to the incoming call volume. If you do hang up, a dispatcher will call you back to make sure you’re not experiencing a true emergency. “When someone accidentally calls 911, it is our job to assume an issue requires a response until we know otherwise,” explains 911 Division Manager Brooke Hazlett. “We must call you back and ensure there is no emergency before we can disregard that call.”

You might not know it, but unless your smart device's battery is dead and you are outside of all wireless carrier service zones, your phone call still dial 911. “Phones without service can still call 911, so do not give them to your children as toys. If you do, ensure that the battery is removed,” advises Brooke. “Many phones will automatically call 911 based on a button being pressed for a certain length of time. Know how your phone works and if you don't then read below for some pointers.”

What to do if you (or your smart device) accidentally calls 911

  • Don’t hang up, stay on the line.
  • Wait for a dispatcher to answer the call.
  • Let the dispatcher know it was an accident (otherwise someone will have to call you back).
  • That’s it. We know accidents happen. It’s faster for everyone involved to just stay on the line and confirm you’re OK (and it’s much easier than making an excuse for accidentally calling an ex).

Tips and info about 911 calls and smart devices

With smart devices from phones to watches being commonplace, it’s important to know accidentally calling 911 is a high possibility. Here are some tips and general information to help.

911 is always a free call, intentional or accidental. You will never be charged for calling 911.

Android and IOS-based phones are equipped with enhanced emergency SOS features that can potentially initiate automated 911 calls. When these SOS features are activated, you might hear an alarm and see a countdown timer allowing you a few seconds to cancel before it places the 911 call.

Device settings can also be adjusted or disabled:

For IOS:

  • Open the Settings app
  • Select “Emergency SOS”
  • You will see a menu of choices on how to activate Emergency SOS
  • Adjust settings from the menu

For Android:

  • Open the app drawer and tap the Safety App
  • Select “Features”
  • Select “Car Crash Detection”
  • Adjust settings from menu

Did you know activities with intense movement can accidentally have your smart device call 911? Put your smart device in a safe location or put it in airplane mode to avoid an accidental 911 call.

If you have an unused wireless phone or smart device being used by children for gaming, please be aware it call still call 911, even if the plan is no longer active. Teach your children what to do if they accidentally call 911.

For more information about Buncombe County’s 911 Call Center, click here.

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Updated Aug 04, 2023 02:35 PM
Published Aug 02, 2023 12:00 PM

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