It’s an old problem, with a new twist.
Charleston County’s Consolidated 911 Center say people more and more are accidentally calling 911.
But they aren’t butt dialing. Dispatchers say people are wrist dialing from their Apple Watch.
It’s happened 337 times already this year, according to Charleston County’s Consolidated 911 Center.
“Apple watch users are calling 911, and they are not noticing,” says Sasha Vargas, 911 Public Educator for Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch.
Charleston County dispatch supervisors provided recordings of emergency phone calls where people accidentally called 911 on their Apple Watch.
Many times the caller does not know, and dispatchers hear a variety of excuses, Vargas says.
Some callers immediately fess up,
” I am on my apple watch and didn’t mean to call you,” one person said.
Others blame it on their kids.
“My one year old was playing with my Apple Watch and called 911,” another caller said.
Over all, hundreds of calls are coming into 911 from Apple Watch users, and often, it’s no emergency.
Taking those calls is 911 dispatcher Leslie Lester-Wegner, and she’s frustrated.
“I love what i do , I have saved a lot of lives”, says Lester-Wegner
But sometimes instead of answering an emergency, she’s sitting on the phone listening to conversations, even work outs.
That’s because if someone accidentally calls and doesn’t know it, and therefore doesn’t say anything, dispatchers still can’t hang up for three minutes. They have to stay on the line in case there is an actual emergency, but the person can’t talk at the moment.
“So taking three minutes on the phone to laugh with someone about their watch calling can be life or death for someone who’s Mom just had a heart attack, or they were just in a car accident,” says Lester Wegner.
Even if you say it was a mistake, officers may still show up where you are.
“It is a big waste of resources, especially if you don’t need help,” Lester-Wegner says.
Vargas demonstrated how easily it can happen..
“You might be grocery shopping, you might be doing something with your hands. Your wrist can hit the side button, and that can initiate a 911 call. It makes a sound, but some users do not hear that.” says Vargas.
So if you do accidentally call 911 on your Apple Watch, Vargas recommends.
“If you do call 911 accidentally, the best thing to do is to stay on the line and tell us it was an accident,” Vargas says.
That way dispatchers, like Leslie, can move on to the next call.
We emailed Apple for a response, and are waiting to hear back.
However, Apple’s website provides instructions on how to change the setting so that holding the side button won’t call emergency services automatically.