Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 27, 2014

Leelanau dispatch gets a series of 911 hangups

BY SARAH ELMS
selms@record-eagle.com

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Emergency dispatchers in Leelanau County are used to 911 hangups.

Tom Skowronski, the county's director of emergency management and 911, said such calls are common. He checked with a dispatcher today who said she received one accidental call for each hour she was on the clock.

But the term "pocket-dial" took on a whole new meaning for Leelanau County dispatchers Wednesday when they received more than a dozen 911 hangups in a row from an Elmwood Township address beginning at about 3:30 a.m.

The phone gave a busy tone each time dispatchers answered.

"Each and every time we get a 911 hangup call, it doesn't matter if it's a land line or a cellphone, we exhaust all resources to figure out what happened," Skowronski said.

A Leelanau County deputy found the caller at home and determined it wasn't the caller's pocket that had been making the calls, but the person's face. The caller apparently fell asleep face-down on the phone and accidentally dialed 911. Repeatedly.

The cause behind a 911 hangup isn't always so humorous. Sometimes the person is calling for medical assistance and is unable to communicate with dispatchers. Other times a third party is responsible for disconnecting the call, such as in a domestic dispute, which is why emergency responders always check, Skowronski said.

More often than not the call is the result of children playing with old cellphones, Skowronski said.

"People upgrade their phones and they give their old phones to their kids and their kids play with them," he said. "Even those phones that no longer have service, by law, can still dial 911."