GREEN BAY - By now many of us have had more than one cell phone in our lifetime.
But what happens once they are deactivated? In some cases, those phones can become a concern for authorities.
They can lay around in drawers or become toys for kids, but even though that old cell phone might no longer have service, it can still make an important phone call.
"When you deactivate a cell phone, you are deactivating the carrier - not the cell phone itself. The service is what the carrier provides, but the cell phone is still active to utilize 911," said Derf Reese of Cellcom in De Pere.
And dispatchers say those calls come in by the dozens every day, taxing resources and costing taxpayers.
"There is a lot of time invested in these calls that we can't do a whole lot about," said Heather Patek, head telecommunicator for the Brown County 911 Dispatch Center.
In case of a real emergency there is one thing Patek says dispatchers need to know.
"The most important piece of information we can get is an address to send help to."
But when the call comes from a disabled cell phone and no one is on the other line, dispatchers must become detectives.
Patek says unless someone is on the other end of the line, often times the best they can do is trace the call to the nearest cell phone tower it came from, but that still leaves a lot of ground to cover.
"If we only have that cell phone tower location, they can't go knocking door to door on the hundreds, possibly thousands of residences in that cell phone tower area."
And Patek says the best way to prevent the accidental 911 calls?
"Take the battery out, or don't let them play with the cell phones."
Another option to simply throwing that old phone in the trash is to recycle it. Your cell phone provider can tell you where to do that. Or you can donate it to organizations that reuse the phones for 911 purposes.
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