Journal Staff

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By Journal Staff

Pocket dialing (also called “butt dialing”) 9-1-1 is so prevalent that it’s even scored an entry in Wikipedia. But did you know the reason cited for the increased number of pocket calls during the summertime, according to this same source? Roller coasters. The article links to a call answered at the Warren County (Ohio) communications center, and that link opens to a video of a dispatcher listening to muffled sounds of clothes rustling from the telephone smashed into the owner’s back pocket punctuated by the screams of riders and the swooshing noise of the amusement park ride.

Even without the seating pressure of a roller coaster, the problem is a growing annoyance among 9-1-1 dispatchers, who must stay on the line to determine whether the call is real or accidental. Stories from various sources attribute hundreds of hang-up calls to back pockets and purses. For example, the Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.) reported that dispatchers in the consolidated Allen County and Fort Wayne (Ind.) communications center received 1,972 hang-up calls from January 2010 to December 2011 that were later determined to be cell phone pocket dials.

According to the Toronto Star (Canada), Toronto police said they receive about 300 pocket dials daily. Officials in the Evanston, Ill., communications center told CBS Chicago that their 9-1-1 center receives roughly 500 accidental calls per month, and they believe the vast majority of those calls are butt dials.

To avoid pocket dialing, the Federal Communications Commission recommends locking keypads using the keypad lock feature, turning off the 9-1-1 auto-dial feature, refraining from programming a wireless phone to speed dial 9-1-1, or buying a phone case that discourages accidental dialing. Although none of the pointers offer direct assistance to dispatchers, the public’s willingness to prevent the problem can go a long way in resolving it.

Incidentally, another interesting fact about pocket dialing found on Wikipedia: The term pocket dialing was invented by Amit Goldenberg, an Israeli linguist who discovered the phenomenon while researching cell phone usage among seamstresses in a border county of Arizona.