Since October, emergency responders in Elk Grove and Sacramento County, California have received more than 1,600 false alarm 9-1-1 calls coming from an Apple repair and refurbishing site in the area.
It’s not clear if the calls are coming from Apple’s iPhones or Watches, but each time a call originates out of the Elk Grove facility, there’s no one on the other end of the line and it’s gumming up the emergency response system in the area, draining resources and possibly slowing down response teams in actual emergencies.
“The times when it’s greatly impacting us is when we have other emergencies happening and we may have a dispatcher on another 9-1-1 call that may have to put that call on hold to triage the incoming call,” police dispatcher Jamie Hudson told Sacramento CBS Local News, which first reported these incidents.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department says it has also received these false calls, telling CBS Local dispatchers sometimes heard technicians in the background.
iPhones and Apple Watches are easily triggered to call emergency response services with an accidentally long touch of a button. iPhone X, iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus call up the SOS emergency service by holding down the side button and one of the volume buttons for an extended period. The Watch triggers a call to 9-1-1 just by pressing and holding the side button.
Though Apple Watches and iPhones make it easier for individuals to get hold of 9-1-1 dispatchers quickly, the Watch’s accidental calls issue has been a known problem for a while now. In early 2017, Tolland County, Connecticut emergency responders reported a series of accidental calls coming from Apple Watches in the Tolland and Hartford areas. Earlier this month, a dispatcher in Ottawa County, Michigan told Newsweek his local branch had been receiving accidental butt dials from Apple Watches at least 10 times a day.
Apple told CBS Local it was aware of the problem and was “working closely with local law enforcement to investigate the cause and ensure this doesn’t continue.”
We’ve reached out to Apple to find out what specific measures it is taking to stop these false alarm calls from causing havoc on the emergency systems in the area and possibly slowing down responders from getting to a real life and death situation. So far, we have yet to hear back, but will be sure to update you when we do.