Halton police respond to about 300 cases of children accidentally calling 911
TORONTO -- Small children love to play with smartphones and some parents give them to kids to keep them occupied, but one police force says they have had about 300 cases of children accidentally calling 911.
“There is an emergency call feature on these phones and even without a sim card and without a data plan you’re still able to make an emergency call to 911 services," said Halton Regional Police Const. Ryan Anderson said.
When some parents get a new phone they may keep their old phone and give it to their child as a toy to play with.
But police say any cellphone, even an old one, is not a toy.
“Kids will be kids. They will push buttons and mash buttons and next thing you know they have contacted 911 and we are talking with a child," Anderson said.
Police say if they can’t confirm a call was made in error officers must be dispatched and recently Halton police had to search a Milton neighborhood and knock on doors to find a child who called 911 twice.
“When you are knocking on 50 doors it takes time and there is an assumption of an emergency until we prove otherwise."
When accidental calls happen ambulance and fire services may also have to be dispatched, which takes resources away from those who may really need them.
It’s not just accidental calls by children, it’s happening to adults too. Halton police say they have had about 30,000 pocket dials, false alarms and accidental calls last year that 911 operators had to deal with.
“We just want people to be aware that this is something that is happening and it does tie up resources for our officers,” Anderson said.
Police say if you do accidentally call a 911 operator by mistake or your child does, do not hang up as they will have to call you back.
They advise you stay on the line and explain what happened so police will know there is not a real emergency.
Accidental callers will not face fines or penalties, police say. They just want people to know this is happening to save time and resources.