APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – There is a growing problem at emergency dispatch centers across the country. While technology can make life easier, it’s also causing lots of undue 911 calls.
The Appleton Police Department says it’s something that’s plaguing its officers.
“We’re in the hundreds [in the last month],” said Lt. Meghan Cash. She’s talking about accidental 911 calls. Lt. Cash said it’s normal after the holidays because of people trying to get familiar with new devices, this year is higher than normal.
“We’re seeing calls being made from a Google Home, to an Alexa, to people’s smartwatches, to new devices of iPads,” added Cash.
She said most people have no idea there’s even an emergency function already activated on their device.
While 911 hang-ups are nothing new, the problem is too many people are then hanging up when they realized what happened. That’s creating another problem, particularly for dispatchers.
“From a law enforcement and safety perspective, we’re going to assume you need our assistance,” said Cash.
When you hang up, police have to determine if there’s a real emergency or if it was just a mistake. This is why if you do hang up, Cash suggests you call back.
“Staying on that line, being able to talk through where were you, what are you doing, is that information checking out,” are all things, Cash says, dispatchers will work to figure out.
On newer iPhones and Apple Watches, police are also learning about another potential problem down the road.
“A phone fell off the top of a car, just somebody dropped their phone, and the phone thought it was a crash. And so we’re in an area as law enforcement looking for where this crash is because it auto-generated a phone call,” Cash explained.
In the end, it’s just about officers wanting to do their job while keeping you safe.
“If we call you, please answer and let us know that maybe there’s not an emergency if you don’t have one,” said Cash.
Local 5 News reached out to Apple to learn more about its crash detection feature in its devices.
The company said it recently updated its iOS (operating system) to better fine-tune some of those features. It is also noted as a reminder older iPhones and other Apple devices do not have that technology built in.
Recently, other area law enforcement has warned people to turn off the feature, especially on their watches, when they go snowmobiling. You can read more about that here.