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Winnipeg Police Received 5,300 Hang-Up Calls to 911 in June

July 12, 2023 2:48 PM | News


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Winnipeg police say a safety feature in software on modern smartphones is resulting in unwanted emergency calls to 911.

Police are warning the public to adjust settings on their cell phone after 5,300 accidental calls were placed to Winnipeg’s 911 call centre in June.

In May, the call centre received just over 42,000 calls to 911 — which is up 49 percent over the five-year average.

The problem lies mostly with Android cell phones, which have a new emergency SOS feature enabled by default. When the power button is pressed rapidly on the side of the phone five times, a call to 911 is placed.

A recent software update to address the problem is now available for download from Google, which adds a countdown feature to the pending call, but only if a user enables it.

Winnipeg police Inspector Gord Spado recently told 680 CJOB in an interview that hang-up calls need to be investigated to determine if a person is legitimately in need of emergency assistance.

“We don’t just treat it like a hang-up,” said Spado. “We have to investigate and see if there’s something else going on that maybe there was an emergency and the call got dropped for some reason. So we have to make efforts to re-contact that original caller through that device and find out what’s going on.”

Spado recommends users download the Android update and adjust their phone’s settings accordingly to minimize the risk of unintentionally calling 911.

Apple iPhones have a similar feature, which can also be triggered by rapidly pressing the power button on the side of the device. Newer models are also equipped with an internal sensor that picks up rapid movement, such as the impact of being involved in a car accident. Once activated, a countdown begins until 911 is automatically dialled. This feature can also be adjusted in an iPhone’s settings to avoid unwanted, accidental calls.

“Something like this or an improper reason for calling 911 has a negative impact on our ability to answer the actual emergency,” Spado added.


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