Apple crash and fall tech inundating 911 dispatchers with automated calls, reports say

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Apple devices’ crash and fall detection features are reportedly flooding 911 emergency service and dispatch centers in states across the U.S.

In Red Lodge, Montana, the issue is impacting Carbon County authorities. 

“When people crash up there, and they have these watches, they automatically dial 911, but then it’s an open-ended line. So, our dispatchers are able to tell if there’s a true emergency or if they can hear the rustling in the background and that it’s just a misdial. We took our numbers from 911 misdials from previous years, even last year, and they’re up 30% this year,” Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan told KTVQ in January. 

In Oregon and Idaho, KATU said that local agencies had reported unintentional 911 calls on Mount Hood and Schweitzer Mountain. 

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Mount Hood beyond the Willamette River during a heatwave in Portland, Oregon, U.S., on Monday, June 28, 2021. 
(Photographer: Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

However, Cheryl Bledsoe, the director of Clackamas 911, told the station that it was not overwhelming them from a call standpoint. 

Last December, The Colorado Sun reported that at least five counties in the state had been receiving a record number of automated calls from skiers’ Apple products

“But we have not seen our numbers change. We are seeing as many as 20 a day and it’s a tremendous drain on our resources,” Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons told the publication. “We are communicating with Apple to get them to pay more attention to this but it feels like we are trying to turn a battleship in a bathtub.”

Speaking with The New York Times, Summit County’s interim director of emergency services, Trina Dummer, said that her whole day was spent managing crash notifications, noting that the calls were threatening to divert limited resources from real emergencies.

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 Attendees examine a brand new iPhone 14 Pro during an Apple special event on September 7, 2022, in Cupertino, California.

 Attendees examine a brand new iPhone 14 Pro during an Apple special event on September 7, 2022, in Cupertino, California.
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“Apple needs to put in their own call center if this is a feature they want,” she said, telling the Times that Apple had sent representatives to observe Dummer and her team for a day. 

As of September, Apple Watches and iPhone 14s were equipped with technology that was meant to alert 911 dispatchers. Fall detection technology was introduced in 2018.

While Apple did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s multiple requests for comment, an Apple spokesman told the Times that the company was aware of the issue and that it provides warnings to the user that a call is being placed to 911, with 10 seconds allotted to cancel it. 

“We have been aware that in some specific scenarios these features have triggered emergency services when a user didn’t experience a severe car crash or hard fall,” Alex Kirschner, an Apple spokesman, said.

A new Apple Watch is displayed during an Apple special event on September 7, 2022, in Cupertino, California. 

A new Apple Watch is displayed during an Apple special event on September 7, 2022, in Cupertino, California. 
((Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images))

The tech giant also said that updates to the software in late 2022 had been intended to reduce the number of false dials. 

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“Crash Detection and Fall Detection are designed to get users help when they need it most, and it has already contributed to saving several lives,” Kirschner added.

Crash Detection works on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models with the latest version of iOS, as well as Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) and Apple Watch Ultra with the latest version of watchOS.

It is designed to detect severe car crashes, and automatically calls emergency services after a 20-second delay if the owner is unable to respond. To turn the feature off, go to Settings and Emergency SOS on the iPhone, or My Watch and Emergency SOS on an Apple Watch. Users can also turn fall detection off this way. 

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