Apple Watch emergency settings causing more 9-1-1 hang-ups, can save lives

Local News

The Eau Claire county communications center says it is having major issues with people calling 9-1-1 and hanging up. But as First News at Nine’s, Jonathan Fortier, shows us technology – like the Apple Watch – is making the number of hang-up calls even higher.

The numbers are in and last year, the Eau Claire County Communications Center received more than 3,600 9-1-1 hang up calls and that trend is continuing into the new year.

“So far in 2020, we are only in the 14th of January and we’ve investigated over 120 9-1-1 hang up calls,” said Josh Miller of the Eau Claire Police Department. “37 of those had to have an actual officer sent to them.”

Aileen Bush, Dispatch Supervisor said, “9-1-1 hang-ups are continuous all day long from cell phones, watches, home phones, everything. We take several a day.”

Bush says these calls can impact higher priority emergencies in the area.

“If they don’t answer and we can locate them through GPS, we will send officers. That takes time away from any other call that could be a little more urgent or higher priority,” said Bush.

But now a new type of hang-up calls are coming in.

“We take a few a day at least, just from an Apple Watch,” said Bush.

The emergency settings on your smartwatch or phone can accidentally call 9-1-1 without you even knowing.

“Sometimes they hang up quick so we do call them back and if they do stay on the line they are confused and don’t understand because they don’t know how the product they’re using actually works,” said Bush.

There is an option to turn off these settings and even enable a loud countdown in case you accidentally activate the emergency call, so you have time to cancel it.

Just go into your phone’s settings, and go under “Emergency SOSs”, then you can choose to turn on or off the side call function, auto call function, and enable a countdown.

Miller says while these accidental 9-1-1 calls can be a nuisance, the settings can also have the ability to save lives.

“There are times where it can save a life and it can get us to a situation where someone legitimately needs help,” said Miller. “We just have to take the good with the bad.”

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