911 centers see false alarms from smart devices
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Skiers hit the slopes at Paoli Peaks over the weekend, taking advantage of 50-degree weather and sunshine to get some runs in.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to three false 911 calls. New Apple devices have a safety feature that calls 911 when the devices detect what may be a crash.
But skiers said those devices may be getting fooled by a good run on the slopes.
At the Orange County Sheriff’s 911 center, dispatchers can pin an incoming 911 call right on the map. This weekend, several false calls came from the ski runs at Paoli Peaks.
“Until we can prove it’s not a problem, we go,” Orange County Sheriff David Henderson said.
He said his dispatchers didn’t know if the false 911 calls this weekend were triggered by Apple devices.
He’s going to have them start asking and tracking the information. But he’s not surprised new tech can lead to an unintended emergency call.
“I have heard on some of the phones,” Henderson said. “People will turn them off and back on, it comes with an SOS, you hit that, it calls 911, we get those once in a while.”
On the skill hill, one of the ski patrol medics told WAVE his Apple Watch called 911 when he was cutting through the powder at a different ski resort. He told a dispatcher he was fine, while he was riding the chairlift.
Another ski instructor told WAVE a phone belonging to one of his friends called 911 twice this weekend.
Those are possibly two of the three false calls at the dispatch center. It’s a big deal because the sheriff’s office only has 11 people in total.
“I’ve got three per shift, and I’ve got a detective and a paper server,” said Henderson.
Skiers told WAVE they suspect ski gloves might accidentally push an alert button. They also suspect a quick stop at the end of a run could possibly trigger the emergency call.
WAVE reached out to Apple, who said it is aware of the issue.
A spokesperson said iPhone and Apple Watch users should update their devices. That will include an update for the crash detection feature, which is supposed to reduce the number of accidental calls.
“We probably haven’t noticed because the Peaks has only been open a short time this year, and it’s been a really weird year for them, hasn’t had much activity up there,” said Henderson.
A Colorado Sheriff told the New York Times they were going to start ignoring the alerts, working on the assumption that another skier will call in if they see someone truly in need of help.
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