Apple Devices Being Refurbished Accidentally Call 911 20 Times a Day

iPhone-Emergency-SOS-KTLA Credit: KTLA
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There is a repair facility in Elk Grove, California where Apple devices go to be restored and refurbished. But, apparently, those devices keep butt-dialing 9-1-1.

That may sound humorous, but the sheer volume of false alarm calls is actually snarling the local emergency response system. Since October 2017, Apple devices have made approximately 1,600 accidental 9-1-1 calls from its Elk Grove facility, local police told local news outlet CBS 13. On average, that’s about 20 false alarms a day.

The 9-1-1 calls are gumming up emergency call centers and dispatchers for first responders in the Elk Grove area, as well as countywide authorities like the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The calls are draining local resources and may actually be impacting response times for actual emergency situations, authorities said.

“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,” dispatcher Jamie Hudson told CBS 13.

When a dispatcher answers one of the calls, there is no one on the other line. But Sheriff’s Department dispatchers say there are sometimes technicians or general repair or maintenance noises going on in the background.

It isn’t clear whether it’s Apple Watch or iPhone devices making the accidental calls. But both products can be set to automatically dial emergency services with a long press of certain analog buttons.

How to Use SOS

  • On iPhones, the SOS feature can be activated by holding down the device’s side button and volume buttons for an extended period of time.
  • On the Apple Watch, the process is even easier. The wearable can be set to dial 9-1-1 by a long press of the side button.

That ease of contacting local authorities may be a life-saving measure — literally — for people who are actually in emergency situations. But it also means that users (or repair technicians) can inadvertently dial 9-1-1.

While the false Elk Grove calls are notable because of their frequency, it’s not the only place where local emergency services are receiving false alarms via an Apple product. Last year, authorities in Connecticut reported a similar series of accidental calls, according to local media. And earlier this month, a police dispatcher in Michigan told Newsweek that his department has been receiving at least 10 Apple Watch butt-dials a day.

Presumably, when a device is undergoing repairs or is otherwise being taken apart while being refurbished, the emergency dialing could be activated by some part of that process. That might explain the sheer volume of calls.

Apple told CBS 13 that it is aware of the issue at its Elk Grove facility, and is working closely with local law enforcement to “investigate the cause and ensure this doesn’t continue.”

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