San Francisco is launching a public information campaign in an effort to reduce the number of accidental 911 calls. (Courtesy photo)

SF launches $250K ad campaign to curb butt dials to 911

With butt dials clogging the 911 center, San Francisco is launching a public information campaign to clear the phone lines for real emergencies.

Residents and visitors will soon see signs around town and on social media warning them to lock their phones to prevent pocket dials under an advertising campaign from the Department of Emergency Management.

“It’s a call for action to our residents to say simply, ‘lock your phone,’” said DEM Director Anne Kronenberg. “That one simple action will be able to prevent 30 percent of the calls to 911.”

SEE RELATED: Butt dials contribute to jammed up city dispatch center

Kronenberg said the department has already purchased ads on Muni buses and shelters with a $250,000 budget for a public information campaign approved by the Board of Supervisors this fiscal year.

“They’ve put together a fabulous program,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who recently held hearings criticizing the department for failing to meet the national standard of answering 90 percent of 911 calls within 10 seconds.

The department has in recent years been swamped by an uptick in 911 calls and has struggled to retain and hire dispatchers. Kronenberg said 40 percent of all calls to 911 are not emergencies.

SEE RELATED: SF’s overloaded 911 center transfers certain car break-in calls to 311 under mayor’s order

Hoping to curb the problem, Mayor Ed Lee in late August directed 911 to transfer non-emergency calls reporting car break-ins to 311.

The ad campaign will also piggyback on that effort with advertisements depicting shattered car windows that read, “Upsetting? Yes. Life threatening? No. Call 3-1-1.”

“We hope to begin to see some little improvement in this next year, and then we have learned that you need to continue telling the public,” Kronenberg said. “It’s not a one-shot deal.”

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