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Arlington’s 911 Center Fields Thousands of Hang Ups

About 37 times per day, on average, someone in Arlington calls 911 and then hangs up the phone.

It may not seem like such a big deal, but those calls come at a cost: of the dispatcher’s time — 3 minutes per call, more than an hour and a half a day — and sometimes the time of police officers who have to respond to a hang-up caller’s home to make sure they are okay.

The numbers are big when you add them up: nearly 20,000 hang up calls over the past 18 months and 1,000 hours of call taker time spent handling them.

To help combat that, Arlington County is asking people who accidentally call 911 to stay on the line and let the dispatcher know it was a mistake, instead of simply hanging up.

The county sent out the following press release on the matter on Wednesday.

If you accidentally call 9-1-1, stay on the line and let the call taker know it was a mistake. This allows the call taker to resolve your call more quickly and be ready for the next call coming in.

In the last 18 months, Arlington County’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC) processed 19,906 abandoned calls, also called “9-1-1 hang ups.” Here’s how it all works:

  • As soon as a 9-1-1 call is initiated, it immediately enters the call processing system.
  • If the person making the call hangs up at any time after the call is initiated, the call is still presented to a call taker.
  • The call taker then attempts to contact the caller to ensure everything is okay.
  • Up to three return phone calls are made to the caller, including leaving a voicemail when available.
  • If the call originates from a landline phone, police are dispatched to check on the welfare of persons at that address.
  • If call takers can make contact and are assured there’s no problem, they cancel the dispatch of police officers.
  • On average, it takes three minutes for a call taker to process a 9-1-1 hang-up. That’s time a call taker isn’t available to receive other 9-1-1 calls. ECC call takers have spent almost 1,000 hours handling hang-ups over the last 18 months.

Remember, if you accidentally call 9-1-1, stay on the line. This allows call takers to be available for the next call, which may be a life-or-death situation.

And don’t forget, for those instances when you’re unable to call, you can now send a 9-1-1 text to our Emergency Communications Center.

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