My brother called me a while back, quite upset. He had had a really bad day the day before. His power flickered sometime during the early morning hours, so his alarm didn’t go off. He woke up to find he had just 23 minutes to get dressed and drive crosstown to his job. As he was rushing around showering and shaving, he heard a pounding on his door. He thought, “who would knock on my door at 7 a.m.? I don’t have time for some contractor wanting to talk about my roof!” So he ignored the knocking. He grabbed his lunch and bolted out the door, only to run straight into a policeman. His driveway was full of police cars.
The officer told him that they had received a hangup call to 911 from his house, and got no answer when they called back. My brother told them no one else lived there but him, and he had NOT called 911. (Now my brother collects vehicles. The last time I visited, his driveway had a pickup truck, a jeep, a muscle car, and the fuel-efficient sedan he uses for commuting.) The officer pointed to the sedan and said, “I suppose that is your car?” [yes] “and that one?” [yes]. My brother got frustrated and said “they’re all mine, and I’m the only one who lives here, and I did NOT call 911!” By now he was jiggling from foot to foot and looking at his watch, worrying what his boss was going to say if he was late.
The officer said “you look nervous–I’d like to search your house”. My brother refused. So the officer asked if he was sure his phone was working. My brother said he would check and locked the door behind himself, so the officer couldn’t follow him in. He checked and found that his phone was indeed dead. So he went back out and told the officer the phone was malfunctioning and he had unplugged it, and said he’d check with AT&T.
They clearly thought he had attacked and/or killed 3 people (from the extra vehicles) and was hiding bodies in the house! My brother finally asked for the officer’s name and badge number [which was refused!] and that’s when they let him leave.
Talking to the phone company, he found out what I already knew (from experience)–some phones (especially cordless ones) call 911 by themselves when their batteries are dying. Now he’s doing battle with the fees the police want to charge him for the “fradulent 911 call”, and the exhorbitant fees AT&T wanted to charge for repair (the source of the calls turned out to be faulty wiring in the connection panel on his house rather than the phone itself, or the neighborhood exchange, like they first told him). It is apparently a rather common problem: http://www.snopes.com/crime/safety/lowbattery.asp
Several years ago my youngest brother was living with me–in a mini apartment in my house. He had a separate phone line with an older model phone. One night he shook me awake at 2 a.m. asking if I was “all right”. He had been awakened by his phone ringing–it was the 911 operator saying they had gotten a call from the house. He said, “it wasn’t me, but my sister is diabetic–let me go check on her”. We put it down to some kind of wrong number and tried to go back to sleep.
The next day when I came home from work, the neighbor across the street told me that the police and fire department were at my house “looking through the windows”. One officer left a card, so I called and found out that another call to 911 happened when no one was home. We finally narrowed it down to one particular phone and trashed it. I had to get a verification letter from the phone company to avoid being charged for all the bogus 911 calls.
So if this happens to you, be aware that it can be the phone itself, the line inside the house, the panel outside the house, or — according to my oldest brother — even the neighborhood exchange!