NANP, also known as the North American Numbering Plan, utilizes 911 as the official emergency phone number. This is supposed to be dialed in cases of emergency. Using the line to place a prank call or for any situation that is not considered an emergency is called 911 abuse. This is regarded as a criminal act.

The choice of using 9-1-1 was reached in 1968, after several other number combinations were tested. This phone is one out of the eight codes of N11, which are abbreviated phone number that provide services. The codes might be used for municipal government, directory assistance, customer services or repair, non-emergency help, TDD relay for those who are deaf, community services and underground public utility.

Every single American or Canadian phone has access to this emergency line. In fact, the law requires that all phones be able to access this number, even when the line is without service. As this is made available solely for the purpose of reporting serious incidents, the misuse or abuse of the number comes with serious consequences.

There are two main classifications for abuse and misuse: intentional and unintentional. The latter refers to phone calls that occur when individuals inadvertently dial the line. This includes hang-ups, misdials and phantom wireless calls.

Phantom calls are sometimes related to automatic dialing. Users might accidentally hit the 9 and 1 buttons and the phone completes the call by dialing this line. Some modern devices are programmed to do this by default. Redialing and resending may also be categorized as unintentional. This usually happens when a person hits send or redial after having made a call to this line. Random dialing occurs when old phones dial the number when the battery becomes extremely low. Misdials and hang-ups occur often and may be because people dial an area code that is similar to 9-1-1. This can also happen when people misdial 011, which is the international access number.

Non-emergency calls that are placed to this number intentionally are considered 911 misuse. That is, dialing the number with the wrong intentions is not acceptable. Some callers will put in a call about a situation that is not considered serious but still requires the services of law enforcement. Sometimes people will call the line without need for police. Others abuse the line by placing prank calls in which they place false reports or hang up.

Exaggerated phone calls are a problem too. People might make a situation to be more serious than it is in order to get a faster response by law enforcement. A good example of this would be someone calling about a domestic dispute or assault and saying they heard numerous gun shots. Misuse of this type is hard to prove and many people do not get in trouble because of it. People who phone multiple times about emergencies that police are unable to verify have happened are called lonely complainant callers.

The number 911 is designated for emergency calls only. It can be dialed from any phone in America or Canada so people can report serious incidents. Sometimes people engage in 911 abuse, which includes using the line as pranks, lonely complainants, embellished emergencies and non-emergencies.

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