With the holiday season promising thousands of new wireless phone users, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Verizon Wireless, California's largest wireless service provider, are urging all motorists to use their wireless phones responsibly and dial 911 only for serious emergencies. 1n 1999, the CHP received nearly five million cellular 911 calls. In 2000, 911 calls are projected to exceed six million.
"With nearly 12 million wireless phone users in California, the wireless call volume coming into our 911 system is enormous," says CHP commissioner D. O. "Spike" Helmick. "And with the industry reporting a new wireless phone sold every three seconds, we are bracing for the volume to increase even more this holiday season."
One of the biggest problems for CHP communication centers is the number of new wireless phone users who test their phone by calling 911. Every day CHP communication centers statewide field hundreds of non-emergency 911 calls.
"Using the 911 system to test your phone is not appropriate," says Helmick. "Anytime an operator is tied up with a non-emergency call, it means they are not available for someone who does have a real need."
"Wireless phones are popular holiday gifts, but eager new users can inadvertently cause problems by calling 911 to test their new phones," says Verizon Wireless Community Relations Manager Ken Muche. "That is why we are advising new wireless phone users to call a family member or friend instead and wish them a happy holiday, or call their own home phone number."
Working with the CHP, Verizon Wireless is taking action to help reduce the number of non-emergency calls to 911 this holiday season. During the month of December, all of the wireless company's California retail stores are distributing fliers to customers who purchase new phones, alerting them that non-emergency calls can tie up 911 lines, jeopardizing response to real emergencies.
Wireless phones do provide an extra measure of safety and there are six specific emergencies when dialing 911 is the best thing to do. Verizon Wireless and the California Highway Patrol suggest dialing 911, only for the following:
- To report a traffic accident or hazard (where emergency personnel are not present)
- Report a reckless or suspected intoxicated driver
- For a medical emergency
- Any type of fire (i.e., vehicle, structure or wildlife)
- A driver in distress
- A crime in progress
When dialing 911 in an emergency, be prepared to provide dispatchers with the location of the emergency, your location, and your wireless area code and telephone number.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S.with 26.3 million wireless voice and data customers and 3.5 million paging customers. The new coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp -- now Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) -- and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). The new company includes the assets of Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless, PrimeCo Personal Communications and AirTouch Paging. The company has a footprint covering nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 96 of the top 100 U.S. markets. Verizon Wireless, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is 32,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company on the Web at http://www.verizonwireless.com.