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911 Misdials Not Slowing Down

Raleigh/Wake Emergency Communications Center
Dave DeWitt

It’s been one year since the ten digit dialing requirement was put into place in the 919 area code. It immediately caused an increase in the number of misdials coming into the 911 call centers in the Triangle. Twelve months later, the problem hasn't gone away. 

The calls come in waves, at all times of the day, to the Raleigh/Wake County Emergency Communications Center in the basement of the City Hall building. If the caller who misdials stays on the line and admits their error, it's an easy situation for the dispatcher to handle.

But if the caller hangs up, the dispatcher is required by law to call back. And if there’s no answer, a police officer has to be sent. That has happened 62,000 times in Raleigh and Wake County alone in the past year. Durham and other emergency call centers in the 919 area code are seeing the same trend.

"There have been months where twelve to thirteen percent of our dispatches to Raleigh police were to investigate hangup calls," says Barry Furey, the Director of the Raleigh/Wake County Emergency Communications Center. "That is a significant drain and I’d use the word waste of our resources that should be used to better purposes.

Furey says many of the misdials come from the elderly and businesses – like car dealers – that often have to dial unknown numbers. Younger users, he says, are more likely to have programmed numbers into their phones.

City officials hope that continued outreach and time will eventually reduce the problem.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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