911 and cell phones

Filed under: random @ 18:23

I recently had occasion to call the Pasadena Police Department. Lacking their number, I dialed 911 from my cell phone hoping they would transfer me over without tying up emergency lines.

Instead, I was greeted with the following (potentially misremembered) message.

You have reached 911 emergency services. If this is an emergency, press 1 or say “one” now.

This was repeated in Spanish then English then Spanish before the other end hung up.

I’ve accidentally pocket dialed 911 before (even when the buttons are locked on most non-flip phones, you can still dial 911), and I wonder if this message has been put into use because 911 operators are being inundated with such unintentional calls.

Among the many possibilities, I mention three.

  1. All calls are greeted with this message.
  2. All calls originating from cell phones are greeted with this message.
  3. All calls originating from cell phones that have previously called in false alarms are greeted with this message.

Anyone know the real deal?

At any rate, the problem is an interesting one. How do you filter out unintentional calls that bog down the emergency response system? Either of the last two possibilities above seem reasonable. I’d rule out the first since the number of unintentional emergency calls from land lines must be minuscule. Additionally, I’d suggest recording the call no matter what so that if someone just starts screaming into the phone, the operator won’t miss anything.

Of course, it’d be best if people were aware of this “feature”. If, in order to get help in the event of an emergency, a person needs to dial 9111 (hmmm… war of escalation) when using a cell phone, I’d like some well publicized announcements.


    Bonnie 07.12.2006 @ 10:47

    I dialed 911 from my cell phone when I was involved in a car accident around a year ago. I don’t recall hearing that message so either it’s a new thing or possibility #3 (or, possibility #4, it’s just you).

    Robert W 09.02.2006 @ 11:22

    911 calls from cells go to CHP. Program the PD & FD emergence/non-emergency numbers for cities you frequent in to your phone.


    nolawi 09.07.2006 @ 17:09

    you didnt mention the rates they charge you when u call 911 on the celly!


    It has been my experience that when you dial 911 depending on your location and the tower it is using it can go to the wrong law enforcement center. It then has to be transfered to the proper one.

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