Emergency dispatchers in eastern Newfoundland say their lines are being tied up by people accidentally calling 911 from cellphones in their pockets.

The 911 call centre for Northeast Avalon handles 43,000 calls every year. One-third of those, about 15,000, are called "duplicates" or accidental dials.

Dispatcher Renee Hamlyn said the pocket-dialing can prevent real calls from getting through.

"When we're trying to reach somebody and you call in with an emergency you're getting a recording saying "Please don't hang up, our 911 lines are busy," said Hamlyn.

The call centre has only three lines, so it doesn't take many erroneous calls to tie them up. When a pocket-dial comes in, dispatchers must make sure it's not a real emergency.

The call centre is asking people to keep their cellphones in a case where the keypad is protected from unintentional dialing.