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Spike in 911 emergency misdials is a growing problem

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is concerned about the sudden and sharp rise in unintended emergency calls, and wants residents to help curb them.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Editor's Note: The video above first aired on May 10, 2023.

The 911 system is designed to get help to those who need it quickly and efficiently, whether the call involves a medical emergency or a crime unfolding. 

Unfortunately, a growing number of 911 calls being fielded by dispatchers are unintended and have nothing to do with an emergency at all. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) is raising a red flag for state residents, noting a sudden and sharp rise in 911 misdials that are taxing public safety resources and possibly delaying responses to real emergencies. 

DPS will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon to detail the increase in misdials, which for some 911 call centers have jumped nearly 300 percent. Unintended 911 calls often require dispatchers and law enforcement to follow up with the caller to see if there really is an emergency, which prevents them from assisting callers who truly do need help. 

Public safety leaders are investigating potential causes for the 911 misdial spike and what can be done to reduce accidental calls. In the meantime, they are asking the public to: 

  • Be aware that devices, such as cell phones or smartwatches, can make emergency calls. Simply knowing how to activate the "Emergency SOS" feature can reduce instances of accidentally triggering a device — especially during high-movement activities.
  • Clean and main their smartphone. Sometimes an unintended 911 call cand be caused by a bit of lint or grease jamming the trigger.
  •  Stay on the line and not hang up in the event of a 911 misdial. Let the dispatcher know the call was a mistake so they can close the matter and move on to the next caller who needs them. 

There can also be more specific causes for unintended 911 calls. Earlier this week the Anoka County Sheriff's Office alerted Android users that a software upgrade resulted in a flood of accidental emergency calls over the weekend. The upgrade has phones automatically call 911 if the power button is pressed five times in a row. 

The department says between May 5 and June 5 approximately 2,000 more open line/hangup calls were received by dispatchers than the two previous months. 

The Anoka County Sheriff is urging Android users to either disable the SOS feature or take steps to ensure their device doesn't accidentally dial 911. 


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