Misdialing 911 from your business telephone system not only can cause disruption to your business but can put lives at risk. It happens, more than we'd like to think, but when 911 is dialed, and the 911 operator can not speak to anyone on the line, your receptionist will receive a call back from your local 911 Emergency Center and is told that 911 was dialed from your location and wanting to know what the problem is? Unaware of any Emergencies within the building a frantic check begins. Sometimes even a call to the PBX vendor to see if they can find who dialed 911. If the 911 Center is unable to contact anyone with a return call, they will dispatch Police to check out the situation. This ties up 911 Operators from handling other calls, and pulls a Police officer (s) away from another call where they may need, and can delay a response to a real Emergency, only to later be found that it was a simple misdial.
How does a 911 misdial happen? The most simple explanation is that typically people calling from a PBX will dial 9 for an outside line, 1 for long distance, look again to verify the number they are dialing and then dial 1 plus the number. The actual dial string then looks like this: 9 + 1 + 1 ++. Notice the emergency services number in the string? Since the telephone system and the local carrier will ignore anything after the 911, a call to 911 has just been made!
Vince Foisy, Supervisor of Communications Systems for Rochester Hills Michigan, says that also many misdials are due to improperly dialed international long distance. For example, the country code for India is "91" and the city codes for Delhi and New Delhi are "11". When someone does not know how to or programs to dial the international access code of "011" the actual dial string, again, is "911". Mr. Foisy says that often in these cases, the person calling does not speak English well enough to be understood so a Police Officer may be sent to insure there is no actual Emergency, or the 911 Center may have a contract with a Language Translation Service they connect the caller to that can communicate with the caller again to only find out there is not a problem, then again tying up a 911 operator and costing the centers for the translation service.
Businesses are obliged to ensure that in the event of a real Emergency the 911 call can get out. Often, to help eliminate most misdials, the PBX vendor will program the pbx to force the user to dial "9911". This, of course, looks logical in that the user must dial a "9" for outside line access and then 911. But there is a major flaw in this logic. When in an emergency situation, the user will fall back to what they've been trained to do and that is to simply dial …