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  • 'Butt dials' - a strain on US emergency systems

    The BBC has a story on the impact of unintended 911 calls.

    "[T]he issue of butt-dialling - that is, accidentally making calls on your mobile phone - is a major frustration and strain on the 911 call handlers.
    In one sample session - when the researchers sat by the call handlers and noted down what was happening - they found 30% of calls coming in from mobiles were accidental butt-dials, also known as pocket-dials."

    It's based a study of calls to San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management conducted by Google. The report lists the following "key findings":
    ● The proportion of calls initiating Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) incidents has decreased from 2011-2014. Although call volume has increased 28% during this time period, the number of CAD incidents has not increased at the same rate.
    ● Police CAD incidents resulting from calls made to DEM increased 11% from 2012-2014. The codes Homeless Person, Unknown Complaint, Auto Boost and Suspicious Person account for half of this increase.
    ● While police CAD incidents from calls have increased from 2012-2014, the number of CAD incidents initiated by officers on patrol (on-view) has decreased 16%. The decrease in on-view incidents could be correlated with reduced headcount by San Francisco police from 2009-2014.
    ● CAD data and data collected by the 9-1-1 teams suggests an increase in the number of accidental calls made to DEM from 2012-2014. Accidental wireless calls also take longer, on average, to resolve than accidental landline calls.
    ● Duplicate calls to DEM have increased from 2012-2014. These include “Duplicate”, independent calls about the same incident made at the same time, and “Supplemental”, calls providing additional information about a previously reported incident.

    The complete report is available online.

  • #2
    Interesting! Not a LEO, so this may be a stoopid question, but does the CAD element mean when they don't know the exact location of the caller so they have to try to find their signal bouncing off which tower?

    Also this may have changed now that nearly everyone over the age of three has a cell phone, but it used to be any incomplete call starting with 9 (open line with no dialing or speech, not hangups!) would route to 911 as an incomplete emergency call, treated as a possible medical issue or abuser stopping victim's call for help.

    There seemed to be an unusual amount of those being people trying to call North Carolina (area code 918), so maybe it needed the 1 also to trigger the auto-route; that was awhile ago.
    "Every day should include a perfectly grilled thick steak, freshly roasted coffee and seats on the 50-yardline.

    Oh, and bacon. It should start with bacon."
    ------- Me

    ~~~~

    Agent and manager of the world's only authentic lucky football kitty. Don't believe me?
    Just look at the Seattle Seahawks 1976-2010, compared to 2011-present. (and yes, I've been a fan that long)

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    • #3
      The E911 chipset in your cell phone is programmed to activate your GPS chipset if you have one
      and to use it and cell tower triangulation to report your location.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by foodnerd View Post
        the CAD element mean when they don't know the exact location of the caller so they have to try to find their signal bouncing off which tower?
        "Phase II E911 rules require wireless service providers to provide more precise location information to PSAPs; specifically, the latitude and longitude of the caller. This information must be accurate to within 50 to 300 meters depending upon the type of location technology used." The technology can be either a GPS chip in the phone or triangulating off of cell sites. The latter method has limitations in rural areas where there a phone may not be in range of three cells.

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        • #5
          2 cell towers and the cell phone are sufficient for triangulation,
          unless the phone is on the straight line between the towers,
          in which case a 3rd tower not on that line would be required --
          a tower can determine the direction of origin of a signal very accurately --
          but not so much how far away it is.
          Last edited by Monty Ealerman; 10-05-2015, 03:55 PM.

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          • #6
            I was a 9-11 operator prior to being the fuzz. I can tell you that butt dials are a headache, and sometimes a huge waste of time and resources. Typically is was obvious from the shuffling sound that there was a butt dial. The problem is many times the person's mobile phone has an open line, so you can't call back to verify their welfare.

            Typically it was chalked up to butt dial after a few attempts to call back, and if the call load was light you'd try to get a hold of them after a few more minutes.

            However, sometimes you'd get a butt dial when the person's at a bar, party, laughing with friends, etc. The sounds were misinterpreted as a struggle, or disturbance. So, one of two "call takers" is tied up attempting to subpoena cell phone records, contacting providers, having officers check on the user's home address, or sending officers to the triangulated area to look around.

            I don't know what the solution will be. Just wait for more emergency texting abilities kick in.

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            • #7
              What does it mean to initiate CAD? Presumably that will make obvious the significance of the changed proportions.

              I completely agree they're hugely financially wasteful, as well as tying up emergency personnel who could be en route to real victims; I just don't understand the term.

              And I think it's accurate to refer to all of them as butt dials regardless what actually dialed -- after the idiots not locking their keypads when shoving phones in pockets, purses, whatever.
              "Every day should include a perfectly grilled thick steak, freshly roasted coffee and seats on the 50-yardline.

              Oh, and bacon. It should start with bacon."
              ------- Me

              ~~~~

              Agent and manager of the world's only authentic lucky football kitty. Don't believe me?
              Just look at the Seattle Seahawks 1976-2010, compared to 2011-present. (and yes, I've been a fan that long)

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              • #8
                My department typically has 4 calls a week on stuff like this, either butt dial or a little kid made the call playing around.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Monty Ealerman View Post
                  2 cell towers and the cell phone are sufficient for triangulation,
                  Correct, it's been a long time since my last geometry class.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Seventy2002 View Post
                    Correct, it's been a long time since my last geometry class.
                    right --
                    unless the phone is on the shortest line between the 2 towers --
                    then you need a 3rd angular reference ...

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                    • #11
                      If you use moving trucks you need only 2 to locate the signal.

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                      • #12
                        How do you butt dial on a full touchscreen phone? I don't know about about Iphones because I have a mind for myself and don't buy what the media tells me. My BlackBerry has a little button on top that turns the screen off, and then won't come back on until I type the password.
                        I yell "PIKACHU" before I tase someone.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tj05 View Post
                          My department typically has 4 calls a week on stuff like this, either butt dial or a little kid made the call playing around.
                          That's it‽ I personally handle 4 911 hang up calls a SHIFT!!!

                          I have never heard of someone calling 918 area codes or 912 or 910... What we get are International calls to India (easily 2 out of the 4 a shift listed above). Their international code is 91 and I work in Silicon Valley. Grandma talking to whoever back in the village. We also get junior pushing buttons; then mom and/or dad FLIP OUT and yell at the kid in Hindi, Cantonese, Mandarian, Spanish, Thai, Paki...whatever until junior is a sobbing mess terrified that he will get hauled off to Juvenile Hall when we show up.

                          Butt dials are annoying as it takes a Sgt to close them out.
                          semper destravit

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rudy8116 View Post
                            How do you butt dial on a full touchscreen phone? I don't know about about Iphones because I have a mind for myself and don't buy what the media tells me. My BlackBerry has a little button on top that turns the screen off, and then won't come back on until I type the password.
                            I think the problem is related to the last part of your last sentence. I've never butt-dialed 911, and my phone also requires entry of a p/w to unlock the screen. Perhaps all phone should require a screen lock after a certain amount of time to avoid such incidents.
                            This Space For Rent

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                            • #15
                              Time to fess up....

                              I have butt-dialed 911 twice now. Once back in 8th grade, with a standard non-touch screen phone. I had no idea until I head the dispatched shouting at me in the middle of class. 8 year old me was terrified, apologized profusely, and hung up.

                              2nd time was while driving. Phone was in my back pocket and (with windows down), I couldn't hear the dispatcher talking. Found out eventually, apologized profusely and hung up. The thing with iPhones is that they have an emergency feature that allows you to dial 911 without a passcode. To my understanding, it cannot be disabled

                              It takes still to feel that stupid. Now I just keep my phone out of my pocket while driving, and have a better passcode
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