SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Butt dialing sounds like a comical mishap, but they make up about a third of the calls made to San Francisco’s emergency dispatchers, causing a serious problem.
911 dispatchers in the city take about 3,600 calls per day, up from 2,600 per day a year ago.
“We get a lot more open dials, which people like to refer to as butt dials,” San Francisco Department of Emergency Management Deputy Director Robert Smutz said.
In San Francisco, the average is about 1,000 butt dials a day.
“We treat every call coming in to 911 seriously, and if we can’t get ahold of the person on the original call, we’ll call back,” Smutz said.
That call back and questioning takes two minutes, and if dispatchers hear anything that sounds like distress on the line, the urgency to figure out what is going on is bumped up.
“Sometimes call the mobile provider and try and triangulate where the phone is from, and take other measures,” Smutz said.
Locking cell phone screens before putting them in your pocket can help prevent butt dialing. The city is also working on a system with service providers where dispatchers could text pocket dialers back instead of wasting time on a phone call.