We here at the paragraph factory are a busy group.
We're milling about town, calling sources for stories, writing, eating lunch at our desks, writing and making the website look good. And largely, we're a silent bunch, sucked into our work, eyeing the clock, hoping it's not quite deadline yet.
It can be quiet here. (The past two weeks notwithstanding, what with cross-county police chases and other high-profile stories.) Sometimes, the only thing that can pry us away from our computer screens is the police scanner.
The police scanner, if you're unfamiliar, is a one-way radio that taps into what's going on with local and state authorities. Namely, the fire department, police department and the Highway Patrol. With a gasp and crackle, it alerts us to what's going on precisely when it's going on. Sometimes we beat the boys in blue there.
Now, everyone's got a cellphone in their pocket. We've reached a point as a society where we've become cyborgs; half-sentient beings trained to perk up at the programmed jingle of their phone. They're fantastic tools. That's why we should be more careful with them.
Here's a staggering statistic: at least 38% of all 911 calls in New York City are accidental "butt dials," meaning our pockets do the number-punching. A CBS report highlighted the problem in Chicago, saying that about 20% of all 911 calls in that area are accidental.
More maliciously, some folks find it fun to prank call 911 and get a chuckle at the expense of our emergency services. And some folks confuse 911 for 411, asking directions, business hours or phone numbers. (Some people, heaven help them, weren't blessed with the sense that God gave a lump of lead.)
911 dispatchers don't know the difference between a "butt dial" and someone legitimately in distress. Police and fire often waste time and effort responding to a call that was accidental in the first place. And taxpayers foot the bill.
Here in Boonville, an average of eight accidental 911 calls per week are made. Curious toddlers fussing with phones, mis-pressed buttons and the aforementioned "butt dial" are all culprits.
So what to do?
Learn to lock they keys on your phone, so accidental input doesn't call 911 (or your mother, your uncle or the pizza place). If you're letting a child play with your phone, set it to "airplane mode," so all communication access is temporarily put on hold. And keep the phone away from any particularly rambunctious folks who might abuse 911.
Little steps like this let the people who keep us safe do their job better.