Your new tech can cause problems for 911 dispatchers

Posted at 11:41 PM, Feb 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-16 23:41:56-05

OTTAWA COUNTY. Mich. – This week marks 50 years since the first 911 call was placed in the United States. Since then, first response has come a long way, as devices and technology has evolved.

With the addition of cell phones, call centers received an entirely new way to communicate with those in need of help. And now, with the emergence of smart watches and voice-activated tech on the market, there’s an even newer one – sometimes, accidental.

For example…

“If you hold your wrist the right way with an Apple Watch…it will dial 911,” says Tim Smith, director of the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority. “We’d call back and find out, ‘oh, it was my Apple Watch, I was exercising or I hit it wrong or hit the wrong button.’ But we’re getting Apple Watch calls all the time.”

About ten per week, Smith says, and not just from smart watches. They’ll get them from Siri mistakes, and other voice-activated technology gone wrong. But the false or accidental calls can waste time and resources.

“We make every effort to follow up on that call, including if we have a valid location, we’ll send an officer out if we can’t get a hold of you,” Smith says.

When officers could be out doing work elsewhere. Keep in mind, some three-digit-combos are emergency combinations in other countries.

“In Jamaica, I believe it’s 119, in the Bahamas I think that it’s 919, in England it’s been 999 since World War 2,” says Smith.

But since your device was likely made by an international corporation, it will recognize it as a call for help and connect you to a local 911 center in the U.S.