911 dispatchers overwhelmed by 'butt dials'
BATON ROUGE - Call centers in Baton Rouge are receiving an overwhelming amount of accidental phone calls and it's affecting their response to real emergencies.
East Baton Rouge Parish averages between 30 and 35 "butt dials" an hour, a number they have seen drastically increase over the last few years.
Mike Chustz, the EMS public information officer, said it's largely due to new technology such as touch screens, emergency modes, or 911 speed dial are usually to blame.
"The amount that is happening is sort of unheard of," Chustz said. "It's becoming a huge problem for our employees that work here."
The dispatcher must remain on the line until the caller hangs up, then they're required to call back until they can determine whether the silence was an accidental call or a serious emergency. This can often take up to 30 minutes, tying up dispatchers when they could be helping someone in need.
"A big majority of them are accidental and we're not needed," Chustz said. "But we don't know that during the call, we have to verify that. And sometimes it can take three, four, 10 times to get that person back on the line."
EMS dispatchers ask people to be aware of this growing issue. They recommend keeping your phone out of your pocket or purse, locking the screen, or putting it in a case. Intentionally calling 911 for anything other than an emergency could result in criminal penalties.