Police ask 999 callers to stay on the line as accidental calls increase by 112%

Dorset Police is urging the public to stay on the line and tell them they are safe if they mistakenly dial 999 after the Force saw a 112 per cent increase in accidental calls.

The Force has seen a sustained rise in the number of accidental 999 calls in recent weeks with 3,067 calls received in May 2023 alone compared to 1,450 accidental calls in May 2022.

Demand for the 999 service has also grown over the last four weeks as the Force responds to increasing visitor numbers and warmer weather resulting in a 25 per cent rise in 999 calls overall.

Silent or accidental calls can be where the person making the call is not aware they have done so, and the operator cannot hear anyone speaking on the line. Additionally, it could be a child playing with the phone or an emergency activation by pressing buttons in quick succession on the side of a mobile phone.

Superintendent Pete Browning, Head of Contact Management, said: “Last month one in every five calls to our 999 service were accidental and this has had a significant impact on the Force. I am urging members of the public that if you accidentally dial 999, please don’t hang up. If possible, I would ask you to please stay on the line and let the operator know it was an accident and that you don’t need any assistance.

“Silent calls to 999 are never just ignored. Contact officers will need to spend valuable time checking our computer systems about any previous interactions you may have had with us and trying to call you back to check whether you need help.

“These figures we’re sharing today are purely accidental calls – we’ve removed incidents where there are concerns for the caller’s welfare, such as a domestic abuse incident or where they were unable to speak for other reasons. In May 2023 there were 79 such incidents.

“With each accidental call estimated to take approximately 20 minutes to resolve, our control room staff spent over 1,000 hours in May – equivalent to 33 hours per day or four extra staff working an eight-hour shift, every day, purely dealing with accidental calls – time which could have been spent helping victims of crime.

“On 28 May 2023 we received 617 calls to 999 – our highest number of calls this year, breaking our record from last year. This record was then subsequently broken again two weeks later on 10 June 2023 when we received 639 calls to 999 in a single day.”

Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes, which is for a number of reasons, but it is believed that there has been a significant impact as a result of an update to Android smartphones.

The update, which was issued between October 2022 and February 2023, added a new SOS emergency function for devices to call 999 through the power button being pressed five times or more on devices but this seems to have inadvertently caused an increase in silent calls.

If you do dial 999 by mistake, please don’t hang up – let the operator know it was an accident and that you don’t need assistance – it will save valuable time for the contact officer, who can then answer a genuine emergency call.

If you have an Android phone, you can check your emergency settings to turn off the functionality added in the latest update, if you wish to.

Go to ‘Settings’ then ‘Safety and Emergency’ and slide the button which says ‘Emergency SOS’ to switch the functionality off.

If a crime is in progress or there is danger to life, always dial 999. If you need to contact Dorset Police for a non-emergency, visit www.dorset.police.uk in the first instance or call 101.