Apple Watch Saves Lives But Accidentally Calls Emergency Services

Accidental 911 calls frustrate first responders.

Apple Watch Side Button
Daryl Deino

Accidental 911 calls frustrate first responders.

This week, Kylie Gilbert’s article at about how the Apple Watch’s SOS feature saved a mother’s life went viral. Many people praised Apple for continuing to make technology that saves lives.

Kacie Anderson, a very young mother from Hannover, PA, used the Apple Watch’s SOS feature to call for an ambulance after she suffered bad injuries from a car accident in late 2017. She was struck by a drunk driver and wasn’t able to reach her phone after the accident. But she was still able to get help.

“The moment he hit us everything inside the car went airborne. My face took a horrible blow to the steering wheel, headrest, back to the steering wheel, and then to the window,” Anderson claimed, adding that she couldn’t see anything.

She unsuccessfully reached for her iPhone, but realized she had her Watch on and was able to get it to call 911. All she had to do was continuously press the side button. Anderson claims the Watch helped save her life.

The SOS feature is something you hear about but hope you’ll never have to use. However, many people have used the feature to call 911, even if they didn’t intend to. Last year, one Reddit user asked for advice regarding the issue.

“It seems like 50% of the time when I am riding my motorcycle the watch calls 911. Does anyone know why this is happening or how to fix it? Thanks in advance!”

As other users noted, something was holding down the side button on the user’s Watch. But there is a way to disable this SOS feature by turning off “Hold to Auto Call” in the iPhone/Watch settings. One can still call 911 by holding down the dial and asking Siri to call 911.

Apple Watch 911
It’s easy to accidentally call 911 using the Apple Watch. Daryl Deino

The situation has been frustrating for first responders. The New York Post wrote about the issue last year.

“Apple iWatch [sic] users are being blamed for a spike in false 911 calls that have plagued the system, wasting valuable time for first responders in the tri-state area.”

The article added that in one week, there were nine false calls. Tyler Millix, the executive director of the Tolland County 911 in Connecticut, advised that accidental wrist dialers stay on the line and admit the mistake instead of hanging up on 911 operators, who are required to track down lost callers no matter what.

It’s a problem that hasn’t gone away, but making people aware of the issue can certainly help. Kacie Anderson’s life-saving example, however, may prove that despite the issues, the Watch’s SOS capabilities are more of an asset than a liability.