Dialing 9-1-1 on an Old Cellphone Not Child’s Play
Alicia Yager, Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa)
Parents giving children old cellphones to play with might not realize those phones can still dial one number: 9-1-1.
Cellphone service providers are required by law to connect any 9-1-1 call on any cellphone, even deactivated phones. This is a very useful feature for people who do not have a regular cellphone for emergencies, Iowa County (Wis.) Sheriff Steve Michek said, but that feature can become a nuisance when a child unwittingly dials 9-1-1.
“We have at times one or more calls per day in which young children are calling 9-1-1 with an old cellphone,” Michek said. “In some cases “¦ it was an out-of-service cellphone that was allowed to be played with by children.”
Because of their issues, the department put out a recent Facebook post cautioning parents about the problem.
“A child can call 9-1-1 multiple times and a parent wouldn’t realize the child is doing so,” the post said.
Michek said the 9-1-1 feature is useful for people who only want a cellphone for emergency use, such as while traveling.
Lt. Scott Baxter, of the Dubuque Police Department, said the department receives a few accidental 9-1-1 dials from children playing with cellphones, though not strictly deactivated ones.
Baxter said since every emergency call is investigated, false dialing ties up the line and slows response to real emergencies. Dubuque’s emergency dispatchers said newer phones can still offer GPS coordinates even if its deactivated, but if it’s an older deactivated phone, there is no way for dispatchers to call the phone back or determine a location unless the caller tells them.
He said parents can still give kids old phones to play with, but he advised taking out the battery to ensure there would be no accidental dials. He also encouraged parents to educate their children about the uses of 9-1-1 and the importance of not dialing the number unless it’s an actual emergency.