Dispatchers say Apple upgrade causing thousands of 911 hang-ups

Posted at 2:32 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 16:32:08-04

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    Papillion, NE (KETV) — Sarpy County Communications said it has seen a rise in the number of unintentional calls this year possibly due to an apple upgrade.

Dispatchers said that so far this year, they’ve received 7,000 abandoned calls.

Dispatchers said many of those calls can waste time and resources.

After a 911 call is abandoned, dispatchers call back to verify there is no emergency and determine whether or not to send authorities.

The call sounds like this: “Hi. This is the Sarpy County 911 center. I received a 911 call from this number. Is everything OK?” a dispatcher said.

“Just a misdial? Bumped your phone?”

That’s the response dispatchers hear about 40 times a day, according to William Muldoon, the communications director.

On an Apple iPhone, if you hit the button on the side enough, it’ll ask if you want to call 911.

Newer Apple watches will call for help if they think you’ve fallen.

“If you push a button too long, or one of the buttons, it may be a preprogrammed thing to call 911, or SOS. It may ask you, but if it’s in your pocket, you don’t know. So you need to be aware,” Muldoon said.

Muldoon said the caller usually hangs up after realizing their device has called 911.

In fact, he’s done it.

“My Apple watch, while (I was) wrestling with the grandchildren, called 911. All of the sudden my watch was talking to me and asking if everything was OK,” he said.

In a panic, he hung up.

Clare Severn is one dispatcher who calls back to make sure everything is OK.

But she admits she’s done it, too. So has her husband, a police officer.

“It was one of those posts on Facebook that said hit this button on your phone four times and see what happens. I did it and (it called 911). Then I panicked and hung up,” Severn said.

Dispatchers said that, when you disconnect, and don’t answer the call back, it takes up resources that could be used for a true emergency.

“On a call that you’re trying to find a location for, it could be anywhere from five minutes to 35-40 minutes,” Severn said.

Sometimes, a dispatcher will send officers to your location anyway, just to be sure you’re safe.

They ask that you understand your device’s settings, and if you do misdial, that you answer their questions.

“I know it’s a knee-jerk reaction to hang up, but just stay on the line,” Severn said.

Muldoon said the technology can be helpful but can cause headaches.

He said that, so far this year, they’ve received more misdials than in previous years.

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