What to do if you accidentally call 911

Stay on the line, don’t hang up. This is what Marblehead Chief of Police Dennis King says to do if you accidentally call 911.

“What everybody should know is that when we do get a 911 hang up, we call back to make sure we know what’s going on. And the policy is really that we respond to make sure that there is nobody in need of assistance, even on hangups,” King said.

In Marblehead, 937 accidental calls to 911 were made in 2020, 1,033 in 2021 and 768 as of Dec. 23 for 2022.

“There’s no doubt that resources are used to investigate 911 calls that are accidental, and we totally accept it as part of the job. I think that what everybody should know is that when we do get a 911 hangup, we call back to make sure we know what’s going on,” King said. “And the policy is really that we respond to make sure that there is nobody in need of assistance, even on hangups.”

Dispatchers ask that people stay on the line if they accidentally call 911 so they can determine if it was “truly accidental,” he said.

“We realize that there are instances where people call 911 and they can’t talk to us. So they were able to call 911 and there’s something going on — it’s a medical emergency, it’s a crime in progress or something where they really can’t stay on the phone — but just that signal to us that they’re in need of help,” King said.

This is a great benefit of 911 calls, he said. With the technology they have today, the “incredibly advanced” 911 systems give them location data and other data they may need.

“If you call from a landline, your address location will come in and information perhaps on who the phone is registered to,” King said. “But even if it’s a cell phone we’re getting coordinates, GPS locations, that we can kind of pinpoint where you are as well.”

First responders are dispatched for accidental calls all the time, he said.

“Everybody knows crime in progress, medical emergency or fire, that’s why you call 911. And so when our dispatchers answer it, they’re expecting information around any of the three of those things and if we’re not satisfied that there’s not something going on, we go,” King said.

Sometimes these calls are kids playing with a phone or even someone calling the wrong number and hanging up really fast, he said.

“People do it all the time. We always ask, again, people to answer our call and call back to help us determine, because until we know what’s going on, we really are concerned about the nature of the call, and if you can stay on it and just talk to us and tell us it’s an accidental, then that oftentimes helps us as well,” King said.