11/06/2012 09:27 EST | Updated 01/06/2013 05:12 EST

Bad 911 calls prompt ad campaign

Southwest B.C.’s 911 operators are continuing to get tens of thousands of so-called pocket calls, so the agency that provides the service, E-Comm 9-1-1, has started an ad campaign to combat the problem.

"E-Comm received more than 70,000 accidental calls in 2011, and these are calls that have the potential to get in the way of real emergency calls,” said spokeswoman Patricia Hall.

“Accidental 9-1-1 calls primarily originate from cell phones when they're not properly put in a case before they're put in a pocket, a purse or a backpack."

The agency is running radio and newspaper ads throughout November in what it's calling its "Tough Call" campaign, trying to convince people to put their cell phones away properly.

"We're reaching out to the community to raise awareness of this issue and ask the public to help us by locking and storing their cell phones carefully,” said Hall.

'Huge drain'

Hall said bogus calls typically take five to 10 minutes to deal with.

"It's a huge drain on our resources. If the person doesn't stay on the line our call takers do have to call the person back twice.”

Hall said that with more people getting cell phones, the problem continues to grow.

In September, a motion was put forward at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference to raise awareness and push cellphone companies to do more to prevent the problem.