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

Snohomish mayoral candidates have very little in common

Karen Guzak and John Kartak are vying for the new position.

Second teen charged after $1 million in school vandalism

Two teens now face felony charges for damage at two schools in Darrington last summer.

Charged in stabbing, his long list of felonies could grow

The Arlington man is accused of attacking a man who interrupted a possible burglary in Everett.

A potentially transformative council election in Snohomish

As the city adopts a new form of government, many new faces are seeking office.

Mill Creek hires Gina Hortillosa as public works director

Hortillosa will be responsible for creating strategic infrastructure plans to promote economic growth.

1 shot dead, another wounded in apparent Everett robbery

There are indications the victims might have known the shooter, who apparently fled in a vehicle.

Fugitive surrenders after being missing for more than a year

A former Darrington man who absconded after serving time in… Continue reading

FBI operation leads to 3 arrests for exploitation

Several Snohomish County law enforcement agencies assisted with a FBI… Continue reading

Most Read