Android feature may be to blame for accidental 911 call surge. How to stop it on your phone

Accidental calls increasing in US, Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. – There has been a surge in 911 calls across the United States and even parts of Europe, and News 6 has learned it’s happening in 911 call centers right here in Central Florida.

Two local sheriff’s offices tell News 6 they have seen a dramatic increase in calls.

According to the National Emergency Number Association, also known as NENA, this spike is from people accidentally calling 911 because of a feature on certain cell phones.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office says your calls are not going unanswered, but this issue is putting stress on its resources.

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The Flagler County Communications Center answers hundreds of calls per day, but an increasing number of 911 calls have no one on the line.

Christina Mortimer is the director of communications and says she noticed a spike starting in June.

“We saw about 35% of all of our 911 calls have been people just accidentally calling and hanging up,” Mortimer told News 6. “It definitely put a burden on staff.”

Every 911 hang-up or misdial is classified as a “911 investigation” in their system.

News 6 has learned in June of 2022 the Flagler County Communications Center had 1,140 hang-ups or misdials. In June 2023, that number jumped to 2,049 — nearly double.

“It required our dispatchers to have to answer about 1,000 more calls a month, that ended up just being accidental,” Mortimer said.

It’s a similar situation in Orange County.

In a letter shared with News 6 from the undersheriff to the county’s 911 coordinator, “dispatchers received about 50 percent more 911 calls” in June 2023 compared to June of last year. According to a report from NENA, “a major factor in this spike is related to recent interface updates to certain Android phones.”

Androids have a feature that if you rapidly press the power button five times, it calls 911.

Barbara Mohr owns an Android.

“You can hit that button five times easy,” Mohr told News 6. “What if they’re just hitting it with their hip or something and butt dialing?”

Kyla Davis has an Android too.

“I mean I can see it,” Davis said. “If I have my phone in my pocket and it’s moving around. It puts the keypad on.”

There are many ways it can happen. But here’s the problem: In Flagler County, even if it’s an accidental call, their policy requires them to send first responders.

“Absolutely. We do have to send law enforcement to all calls, so that’s somebody that could be responding to another actual real emergency happening,” Mortimer said.

Androids now have an updated operating system to address the issue.

You can go to settings, then emergency SOS. There is a countdown button. There is an option to turn the feature off.

If you leave it on, now there is a 10-second countdown and an alarm sounds in the last few seconds to alert you it’s calling 911.

If you look at your phone and you have accidentally called 911, do not hang up. Simply tell them it was an accident.

Operators are required to call back which takes time away from legitimate calls, according to Mortimer.

A Google spokesperson issued a statement on Monday:

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.