We’re talking about 40 to 60 fake 911 calls a day, coming into the Summit County dispatch center. Team members expect this to get worse as the season approaches for the skaters.
Summit County 911 Director Trina Dummer was more than happy to sit down with CBS News Colorado to deliver a message to the public before the big gift-giving holiday kicks off. It warns that some versions of the Apple Watch and iPhone 14s have a system that automatically sends a 911 call if they detect a malfunction.
The problem is, not all of those calls that came in this year were real emergencies. The calls were people crashing while skiing but fine or even suddenly stopped while skiing.
The alert system gives someone 20 seconds to stop the alert from going out to send, but according to the dispatchers, this simply doesn’t happen for any reason.
Summit County Special Operations Sergeant Mark Watson said he thinks it’s because people are trying to keep their tech warm on the ski slopes so the battery will last, but it also means it takes longer to arrive.
“If your iPhone is in your backpack, it may take more than 20 seconds for them to turn off or they don’t hear,” Watson said. “It’s going to overwhelm everyone (in the cast). We expect to see over 100 a day here as things start to progress through the year.”
They also receive fake calls daily at the Loveland Ski Resort, said Tom Dale, dispatch supervisor for the Clear Creek County 911 Call Center.
“They have increased crash detection sensitivity on their watches and phones, so skiers take a routine fall on the mountain and alert our center to the possibility of a car accident… on the mountain.”
CBS News Colorado wants to point out that there are, in fact, no car crashes on the hills of Loveland Ski Resort, no matter what Apple devices tell dispatchers.
Dale isn’t saying people should turn off the feature, but he said people should know how to turn it on and know how to stop false alarms from being sent.
Watson in Summit County echoed that message, noting that people need to take this seriously because it seriously hurts the ability of the dispatch to respond to emergencies.
“It’s a 911 call and you’re going to the 911 emergency call center, it’s no joke,” said Watson.
Besides taking valuable time away from dispatchers, the way Summit County’s system works means that one of those automated calls, left unanswered, will take priority over a real emergency.
Spencer Wilson, CBS News’ Colorado correspondent, asked if there was a dispatcher on the phone helping someone perform CPR, and they received one of those fake calls, which gets priority.
An automated call does just that, Dummer said, meaning the dispatcher would have to put someone on hold while trying to figure out if that call was actually real, even though there was none at all.
“It’s a very dangerous public safety compromise, and I’m very concerned,” Dummer said.
CBS News Colorado discourages people from turning off the setting, but if you’re interested in learning more about the setting and how it works on your devices, you can go here for more information.
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