Old cellphones cause trouble for 911 dispatchers

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — People who have old cellphones lying around should consider taking out the battery, say local emergency dispatchers.

Inactive phones still can call 911, creating problems if there isn’t a real emergency, said Debbie Grady, executive director at SNOCOM, the emergency dispatch center serving southwest Snohomish County.

Roughly 5 percent of the center’s incoming 911 calls are from inactive phones, she said. From January through September, that amounted to 6,749 calls.

The Federal Communications Commission requires that all cellphones, even disabled ones, be able to call 911. Inactive phones often are given to domestic- violence victims or older people in case of an emergency, Grady said.

However, old cellphones also are attractive to young children, who may call 911 accidentally.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for a number of years,” Grady said.

Inactive phones don’t have service, so they can’t give location information to dispatchers, Grady said. The dispatchers can’t call the phone to get details.

The technology is getting better, but even newer cellphones provide only a general area of location to dispatchers, Grady said. Unlike house phones, they’re not hard-wired to a specific address.

“It doesn’t quite work as well as ‘CSI: Miami’ shows,” she said.

To donate cellphones to domestic-violence survivors, go to www.dvs-snoco.org/donatecell. To find other local organizations that collect phones, go to www.americancellphonedrive.org. Some community groups that assist deployed military members also collect cellphones.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Local police join thousands honoring slain Canadian officer

Abbotsford Const. John Davidson was killed Nov. 6 in a shootout with a suspected car thief.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

One arrested in Marysville in connection with robbery

The suspect was caught in the 5800 block of 60th Drive NE.

Darrington School Board race might come down to a coin flip

With a one-vote difference, a single ballot in Skagit County remains to be counted.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

City Council OKs initial funding for Smith Avenue parking lot

The site of the former Smith Street Mill is being developed in anticipation of light rail.

Single fingerprint on robbery note leads to arrest

The holdup occurred at a U.S. Bank branch in Lynnwood in June.

Most Read