Setting to Blame in Apple Watch Owners Mistakenly Calling 911

Apple Watches Are Calling 911

TANGIPAHOA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - At a time when seconds count, some 911 operators claim time is being wasted. The Tangipahoa 911 Center reports 70 percent of the calls they get are mis-dials. They believe a new feature on the Apple Watch may be to blame.

Dispatchers are typically busy inside the Tangipahoa 911 Center. Trainer, April Brown, says they field hundreds of calls each day. She says more than half of them are accidental, and the person on the line hangs up.

“It can sometimes be a little overwhelming, especially when we have important calls coming in,” said Brown.

Brown says it's because when it happens, dispatchers are required to call back until they get the person on the line and make sure they do not need emergency assistance. Lately, the people behind the screens say the calls are not coming from a landline or even a cell phone, but from an Apple wristwatch.

“About five times a day I get a call saying, 'Hey, my watch called you. I didn't call. It was the watch,” said Brown.

The call goes out automatically when the wearer holds down the bottom button on the side of the watch for three seconds or more. The Emergency SOS display pops up and the watch dials 911.

Director of the 911 Tangipahoa Center, Dennis Darouse, says his dispatchers have seen a spike in calls since Apple's newest operating system, OS3, introduced the SOS feature last September.

“For our operators, it is very frustrating. I would probably say, in our center, it's roughly 70 percent of our total calls,” said Darouse.

There is a way to disable the setting. Simply go to the My Watch icon on your iPhone, then go to General Settings, Emergency SOS, and swipe to the top tab to the left to black out or turn off the option.

Darouse says he is not trying to encourage people to disconnect, but he is making a request that could save dispatchers a lot of time when responding to true emergencies.

“If you inadvertently dial 911, just stay on the line and say, 'I'm sorry.' That's all we ask,” said Darouse.

The SOS feature will also automatically dial the personal emergency contacts saved in your iPhone.

IN THE TRIAD

Forsyth knows they got at least one Apple Watch call last week ---because when they did the standard call back on a hang-up call.. the person blamed their watch.

Putting the calls into context: By March of this year... Guilford Metro got 50,000 emergency calls and 10,000 were hang ups. That said, if contact can't be made after the call is received into the 911 center, an officer has to physically respond to the location.

In 2016 officers responded to hang up calls:

  • 499 times in Guilford County
  • 1,400 times in High Point
  • More than 1,600 times in Forsyth County

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