Smart phones causing problems for 911 dispatchers
BATON ROUGE - A feature on most smartphones designed to keep us safe is causing problems for Baton Rouge dispatchers. People are able to call 911 by just holding down two outside buttons. It's so convenient, people are doing it all time by accident.
“If I take an average of 150 calls a day, I probably build 50 of them as emergencies and the rest are 911 hang-ups or police emergencies,” Emergency Communications Officer Alexandra Johnson said.
What's making this problem worse: recent iPhones and Apple Watches. The iPhone X has a new auto call SOS emergency feature. If you press the volume down and power button at the same time, the phone will dial 911 in just 5 seconds, unless someone cancels the call. The iWatch has a similar feature.
“There’s a button on the side of the digital crown,” explained Unit Commander Brad Harris. “If you hold it for 3 seconds a screen comes up. If you want to call 911, you slide the SOS emergency.”
This is so easy to do, many don't mean to do it. But on purpose or not, dispatchers have to assume something is wrong.
“If it’s a number we can't call back, we get the address that pops up, build that call, send it to police and they investigate,” said Johnson.
If you accidentally call 911, dispatchers are asking people to stay on the line and confirm the call was an accident. That way police do not have to respond, saving area resources.
“It’s really sad because it takes away from something coming in that may be a choking child or something with cardiac arrest,” said another emergency communications officer.
There are ways to turn off these setting on both iPhones and iWatches.
How To Stop Your Apple Watch From Accidentally Calling 911:
1. On your iPhone, open the Watch app
2. From My Watch, choose 'general' and then 'Emergency SOS'
3. Turn off the 'Hold to Auto Call' slider (if it’s green, it’s active).
Even after deactivating this feature you will still be able to call 911 using your Apple Watch. Simply hold down the digital crown until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
How To Stop Your Apple Phone From Accidentally Calling 911:
1. Under settings tap the Emergency SOS button and you will see the ‘Auto call’ slider.
2. Slide button to the left to deactivate (if it’s green, it’s active).