Unintentional 911 calls overwhelming officials, advice as solution is worked on

Sharp rise in 911 misdials

Sharp rise in 911 misdials

Emergency call centers, locally and throughout the nation, are calling on the public to help with an issue.

The problem: an overwhelming number of people unintentionally calling 911. The source: possibly an Android device update.

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office shared their concerns about this earlier this week, reporting that a recent Android software update makes phones automatically call 911 if the power button is pressed five times in a row.

Officials say the feature can be disabled by going to the phone’s settings, selecting the “Emergency SOS” feature, and turning it off.

Wednesday, emergency management officials from the Twin Cities to the national level held a virtual meeting to address this.

“This just is a tremendous drain on resources,” Dana Whalberg, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Networks, said during the meeting.  

“Our call volume in itself is increased in about three to 500 calls a day right now,” Joni Hodne, director of Minneapolis’ Emergency Communications Center, said.

While they didn’t share an exact reason for this, they said Android devices are part of the problem and are working towards a solution.

“We talked to some of these some of the device manufacturers, and we found out that a major factor in this like is actually related to a recent interface update to the Android devices,” April Heinze, director of the National Emergency Number Association, adding: “By mid to late June, the Android handset vendors will be completing rollout of updates to address many of these issues.”

This issue is proving especially difficult for centers that are understaffed.

“Over the last month to six weeks, we’ve seen an influx of unintentional 911 calls, probably upwards of 25 to 50 a day,” Sgt. Ross Benzen, with the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office, said.

“This is an especially hard one for centers like this because we’re short staffed and we still have to get to every single 911 call,” he added.

Officials suggest getting to know your device, which could help prevent this from happening to you. But if it does, and you see it’s happening, they say not to hang up so you can tell the operator that it’s not an emergency.