Californian authorities report deluge of false alarm calls from Apple facility

23 Feb 2018

Apple Watch. Image: CanadaPanda/Shutterstock

Emergency services are fielding numerous false alarm calls from an Apple facility in California.

Emergency response teams in Sacramento County and Elk Grove, California, have taken more than 1,600 false alarm calls from an Apple refurbishment and repair site in the locality.

According to CBS Sacramento, the calls began in October 2017 and there is usually nobody on the other end of the line. Police dispatcher Jamie Hudson said: “We’re able to see quickly where the call is coming from, so, when we get one from Apple, the address will come up with their location.”

Elk Grove police said they have received an average of 20 accidental emergency calls per day from the Apple facility and Hudson said this can be dangerous as it takes valuable time away from teams that could be responding to genuine emergency situations. “The times when it’s greatly impacting us is when we have other emergencies happening and we may have a dispatcher on another 911 call that may have to put that call on hold to triage the incoming call.”

The sheriff’s department of Sacramento County said it has also received these calls, noting that staff can sometimes hear repair technicians in the background.

Could emergency call feature be to blame?

Apple installed a new feature in iOS 11 that makes it easier to call for emergency attention if the user finds themselves in a dangerous situation. Called Emergency SOS, it will call services and contacts after the sleep/wake button is pressed five times in quick succession.

It is not clear if the calls are coming from iPhones or Apple Watches, but accidental calls have been a problem for the Apple Watch for quite a while. TechCrunch reported that first responders in Connecticut and Michigan had also experienced a series of accidental calls from Apple Watches.

The company said of the incidents: “We’re aware of 911 calls originating from our Elk Grove repair and refurbishment facility. We take this seriously and we are working closely with local law enforcement to investigate the cause and ensure this doesn’t continue.”

Elk Grove police said public safety was not in danger at this stage, but they wanted to work with Apple to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

Apple Watch. Image: CanadaPanda/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects