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FCC commissioner: Butt-dialing is resulting in millions of accidental 911 calls

Lock your keypads, people: Federal Communications Commission member Michael O'Rielly is "infuriated" over accidental wireless phone calls to 911, writing in his official blog that butt-dialing is becoming a serious issue in the United States.

While visiting the New York City and Anchorage Public Service Answering Points (PSAP), O'Rielly found that about 70 percent of 911 calls are made from wireless phones, and at least 50 percent of those are the result of accidental pocket dialing. "If my anecdotal experiences are remotely accurate, it would mean that approximately 84 million 911 calls a year are pocket dials," he wrote. "This is a huge waste of resources, raises the cost of providing 911 services, depletes PSAP morale, and increases the risk that legitimate 911 calls — and first responders — will be delayed."

O'Rielly wants to educate consumers about securing their devices, and one idea is to have a PSAP text a number when 911 is inadvertently dialed, letting the caller know what happened. "If consumers are alerted to the simple fact that they have dialed 911 accidentally, they may take precautions to prevent it from happening again," he wrote. There's also the option of having the butt-dialer pay a fee if they repeatedly call 911 by mistake. "I'm confident that if consumers realize that they are putting their friends, neighbors, and loved ones at greater risk, then they will change their practices," he said.