NY Daily News - May 09, 2012by Juan Gonzalez
Most of the 10,700 false calls are commonly referred to as 'butt calls'The city's emergency communications system is being flooded with nearly 4 million calls a year from people who inadvertently dial 911 on cell phones. An astounding 38% of some 10.4 million calls to 911 during 2010 involved such accidental or false alarm "short calls" of 19 seconds or less -- that's an average of 10,700 false calls a day.
Most of the calls -- commonly referred to as butt calls -- came from cell phone users who mistakenly dial 911 when making contact with phones in their back pockets, purses or elsewhere. Each time one occurred, NYPD operators lost valuable time trying to determine if someone was even on the line.
All of this can be found in an independent consultant's study of the city's emergency communications system that Mayor Bloomberg finally released late Friday after a long court battle with leaders of the firefighters unions who were demanding the report be made public.
The 911 system handled 3,910,373 butt calls in 2010, the report noted -- even more than the 3,495,716 calls in which police cars were dispatched to actual emergencies.
During the first four months of 2011 -- the latest data available in the report -- short calls increased to 39% of all calls handled by police operators.
"The increased proliferation of cellular telephones has caused a dramatic increase in the number of accidental 911 calls made," the report said.
Back in 2003, only 29% of all calls to 911 came from cell phones. But that jumped to nearly 59% by 2010, and is expected to keep growing.
The city has done nothing to reduce butt calls, but all those short-duration calls sure make overall 911 response times look good.
According to the report, "The NYPD reported the 2010 System Average Total Talk Time was 1:08 minutes. Since the total number of calls received includes approximately 3.9 million short calls, utilizing this metric as currently calculated does not accurately reflect the NYPD's time spent on received and processed 9-1-1 calls."
But so far, city officials have done little in response, the report noted. They are not, for example, trying to keep track of cell phones that repeatedly make false calls, or even trying to study the source of all the false calls.
The Virginia-based Winbourne Consulting Group, which authored the report, urged City Hall to launch "a public awareness" campaign to reduce accidental calls and "significantly decrease the work load on the 911 system," thus increasing "average speed of answer."
Amazingly, Bloomberg admitted Tuesday he hasn't even read the report.
His admission is especially startling given that Bloomberg himself commissioned the study in the aftermath of one of the darkest incidents of his mayoralty -- the city's botched response to the Christmas blizzard of 2010.
Back then, thousands of residents complained of long delays in getting 911 operators to respond.
The city's failure to address the high rate of false 911 calls is just one of several issues addressed by the Winbourne report.
It contains numerous startling revelations about problems that have dogged the city's massive upgrade of its 911 system.
This is, after all, one of the signature projects of the Bloomberg administration. It was begun after two huge calamities, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the blackout of 2003, revealed major failings in the 911 system.
At its current price tag of more than $2 billion, the 911 modernization, known as ECTP, is now nearly $1 billion over budget, and key portions of it are years behind schedule.