MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — You get a new phone, you give your old one to your kid to use as a toy. Sound familiar?
Whether it’s to keep them from crying at a restaurant or simply to help them pass the time at home, many parents do the hand-me-down phone trick. However, this could be putting a strain on first responders without you realizing it.
What many parents don’t know is that old cell phones can still dial 911, even phones without a current cellular plan.
“Officers spend invaluable time responding to 911 calls from disconnected cell phones every day, and many of them are children playing with an old cell phone,” Mobile Police Lieutenant Mac Hardeman recently posted on the department’s Nextdoor page.
In 2021, Mobile County’s 911 Center handled 8,428 disconnected 911 calls, according to Director Charlie McNichol. That’s roughly 23 per day.
While there’s no breakdown available of how many disconnected 911 calls turned out to be children with old phones, it happens frequently enough for MPD to take notice and send a reminder to parents.
“This is an important feature enabled so people that cannot afford a phone can still have access to 911 with an older used phone,” Hardeman wrote on the Nextdoor post. “The problem is we cannot call them back to find out if there is a problem when no one says anything to the 911 operator.”
This puts a burden on first responders, who are then obligated to figure out if the call was an actual emergency.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution for parents. Before you give your old phone to your child, simply remove the phone’s battery.
Have questions about how 911 works? Check out the government’s FAQ page here.