MARYLAND

911 operators: 'Butt dials' take time from real emergencies

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Everyone has probably received that voiceless, accidental phone call, fondly referred to as "pocket or butt dials." But, no one has received as many as 911 operators.

Every day, around 3,000 phone calls come into the Prince George's County 911 call center. Ten percent of the time the caller doesn't even know their phone called 911.

That's 300 accidental calls a day.

Char Flaherty said, "If we have to be on the phone for a minute with everybody that calls, that's calls we could be answering from people with real emergencies."

Unlike Prince George's County, the other major jurisdictions ABC7 contacted didn't keep statistics on "pocket calls." But in New York City , nearly 40 percent of the 10 million 911 calls placed last year were made by mistake.

Police and communication industry experts says a substantial number of the mistaken 911 calls are made by children playing on their parents' phones.

Jerry Shiplett, a Prince George's County 911 operator, told ABC7 on Monday morning, he received 52 calls in an hour and a half from a 3-year-old using her parent's phone.

"The little girl called and just says, 'Hello, who is this?,' giggles at us and hangs up when we try to get a parent on the line," Shiplett said.

But, how do you stop something you don't even know your pocket or your child is doing?

Communication industry officials advise locking your phone when it's not in use.  While it sounds like simple enough advice, too many cell phone users aren't doing it.

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