Jul 30, 2014

Local Mystery: Phone Dials 911 By Itself — Repeatedly

Not a trick, and no treat for the cops.

Local Mystery: Phone Dials 911 By Itself — Repeatedly

From the spooky, eerie, makings-of-a-good-Halloween-movie files, a San Ramon-Danville-area family was befuddled how, over a two-week span, several 911 calls were made from their address -- without their knowledge, while they slept or when they were not even home.

The mystery began when the mom recently was woken up at 1 a.m. by a phone call.

“911. What is your emergency?” said the caller.

Her household was asleep; there was no emergency. Why was 911 calling?

“You called us,” the 911 operator insisted.

After some back-and-forth, the operator felt comfortable that the woman and her family were safe and hung up.

A few days later, the woman pulled onto her street only to see two police cars in front of her house.

A call from inside was placed to 911, said the cops. Again, vexing -- no one was home. 

And frankly, the officers added, they had been to her address four times in the past two weeks responding to 911 calls.

"I said, 'Oh, my God, I'm so sorry. I'll look into it right away,'" said the woman, who still cringes over the repeat police visits and opted for anonymity.

The house has no alarm service linked to emergency numbers, and, the flustered resident assured law enforcement, no pranksters under the roof.

After a service call from their telephone land-line provider, the 911-dialing culprit was revealed to be an old phone in a spare bedroom, which was sending out static pulses that would randomly hit on emergency number 911.

Reports of phones dialing 911 on their own are rare, to be sure, but they do happen, according to news articles, internet discussion groups, emergency-response workers, and even a phone technician's YouTube video.

In the late 1980s, a Los Angeles Times story highlighted how old, "dying" phones calling 911 by themselves was a routine headache for police.

The area family's phone -- an older model initially placed in the guest room in case the grandmother stayed over and needed to call 911 -- is now in the recycling bin.

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