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‘Dying’ Cordless Telephones Dial 911 All by Themselves; Authorities Are Not Amused

Associated Press

Cordless telephones across the country are dialing 911--the national emergency number--by themselves, and it’s driving police and other authorities nuts.

“It’s a headache,” said Joel Healy, assistant chief of Santa Clara County Communications. “We get 30 or more calls a month that I call ‘phantom dialers.’ ”

Healy has studied the problem for the county and has determined that when their batteries get low, cordless phones pick up frequencies given off by such household appliances as microwave ovens, vacuum cleaners and refrigerators.

“Somehow the cycles per second (of the appliances) are equivalent to a 9 and then a 1 and it just goes into 911,” Healy said.

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Bud Walker, Pacific Bell’s production manager for 911, agreed with Healy’s assessment.

National Problem

“It’s a national problem,” Walker said. “Cordless phones have a tendency, when their batteries are low, to dial spurious numbers. They generate a frequency that would be similar to someone pushing their buttons.

“It’s the same thing as when the battery in a home smoke detector gets low. The detector chirps. (The phones) don’t chirp. They have a tendency to want to dial. They’re calling out for help.”

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Cellular phones also cause problems, said Michael Moos, president of the National Emergency Number Assn. He said one type of cellular phone catches 911 calls made throughout northern Illinois and sends them into the Chicago Police Department.


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