Apple repair facility in California made about 1,600 false alarm 911 calls since October

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2018
Emergency dispatch centers in Elk Grove and Sacramento, Calif., have over the past four months seen an increasing number of false alarm calls originate from an Apple facility in the area, with workers there fielding about 20 such calls per day.




According to dispatcher Jamie Hudson, the calls are coming from iPhones or Apple Watches within an Apple repair and refurbishing center in Elk Grove, reports CBS Sacramento. As an emergency services center, dispatchers are able to see where calls are coming from, either through cell tower triangulation or information gleaned from onboard GPS, if such functions are active.

When dispatchers answer a call from the Apple facility they are rarely met with another person on the line, suggesting the calls are being placed in error.

"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," Hudson said.

Apple acknowledged the situation and said it is working on a solution.

"We're aware of 911 calls originating from our Elk Grove repair and refurbishment facility," an Apple spokesperson said. "We take this seriously and we are working closely with local law enforcement to investigate the cause and ensure this doesn't continue."

Apple failed to specify why employees are making errant 911 calls, though the company's Emergency SOS feature could be to blame. According to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Communication Center, which received about 47 errant 911 calls from Apple since the start of the year, dispatchers can sometimes hear technicians "talking about Apple, or devices or generally about maintenance and repairs."

The SOS feature, present on both iPhone and Apple Watch, is designed to be activated in a hurry.

On current iPhone X and iPhone 8 models, users must press and hold the side button and both volume buttons to trigger Emergency SOS. Alternatively, pressing the side button five times in rapid succession achieves the same result. This latter method is also used to activate Emergency SOS on older iPhone models.

When the SOS feature is triggered, a large timer will being counting down from three seconds and a loud rising tone is played through the device's speakers. Once the timer reaches zero, the call is automatically placed without further user intervention. Users can halt the operation by tapping on an onscreen "Stop" button and confirming in a subsequent menu.

While the calls may be benign, the rate and consistency at which they are placed is a problem. So far, Elk Grove Police report receiving some 1,600 calls since October, each of which takes valuable seconds away from real emergencies.

"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," Hudson said of the apparently accidental Apple calls.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    I have had two instances of calling emergency accidentally when using my AppleWatch in the past couple of months: the placement of that on a button where you press twice in quick succession for ApplePay (and three times for 911) is quite suboptimal, in my view.

    I was horrified and apologetic both times, since the darn thing is tough to turn off -- as it should well be -- since it starts to call 911 right away.
    mazda 3smuthuk_vanalingamrepressthis
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Mikes65Mikes65 Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    I have a case and when I am putting it on my iPhone 8, it hits all the right buttons and activates the Emergency Call button. My phone called 911 twice because of this. If a case can call 911 then I think the feature is to easy to accidentally activate.
    muthuk_vanalingamrepressthisDavidAlGregory
  • Reply 3 of 22
    I have had two instances of calling emergency accidentally when using my AppleWatch in the past couple of months: the placement of that on a button where you press twice in quick succession for ApplePay (and three times for 911) is quite suboptimal, in my view.

    I was horrified and apologetic both times, since the darn thing is tough to turn off -- as it should well be -- since it starts to call 911 right away.

    turn on the count down feature which gives you  time to cancel and request before the call is actually made.

    Solilolliverwatto_cobrabshankGeorgeBMacrepressthisjony0
  • Reply 4 of 22
    The cause is obvious: the repair process is painful for these devices, and they are calling out for help. Perhaps Apple needs to adopt more humane repair techniques. At least use some anasthetic before surgery!
    StrangeDaysbonobobmuthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMacmobius
  • Reply 5 of 22
    I have had two instances of calling emergency accidentally when using my AppleWatch in the past couple of months: the placement of that on a button where you press twice in quick succession for ApplePay (and three times for 911) is quite suboptimal, in my view.

    I was horrified and apologetic both times, since the darn thing is tough to turn off -- as it should well be -- since it starts to call 911 right away.
    The implementation was not well thought out, that’s for sure.
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Mikes65 said:
    I have a case and when I am putting it on my iPhone 8, it hits all the right buttons and activates the Emergency Call button. My phone called 911 twice because of this. If a case can call 911 then I think the feature is to easy to accidentally activate.
    Easy solution: Power the phone down when putting the case back on. 
    lollivernetmage
  • Reply 7 of 22
    A simple method guaranteed to work regardless of how messed up the device is: Faraday cage. As long as it is sealed and entrance/exit portals closed it will prevent this. Use an airlock type of entrance to ensure it stays closed all the time. Put beacons inside and detectors for those outside to keep track of the cage's integrity. The only problems are that it can be a pain to retrofit into an existing work area and it costs money -- but it would probably be less than potential government fines for false alarms.
    freshmaker
  • Reply 8 of 22
    maestro64 said:
    I have had two instances of calling emergency accidentally when using my AppleWatch in the past couple of months: the placement of that on a button where you press twice in quick succession for ApplePay (and three times for 911) is quite suboptimal, in my view.

    I was horrified and apologetic both times, since the darn thing is tough to turn off -- as it should well be -- since it starts to call 911 right away.

    turn on the count down feature which gives you  time to cancel and request before the call is actually made.

    I did the opposite.  I turned off the count down feature so that I have to manually move the slider to initiate a 911 call.

    The first time I hit the power button 5 times, the alarm so startled me that I almost didn't cancel the call in time.  And I sure as hell wouldn't want that alarm going off if I'm trying to be secretive about calling emergency services.
    GeorgeBMacrepressthis
  • Reply 9 of 22
    maestro64 said:
    I have had two instances of calling emergency accidentally when using my AppleWatch in the past couple of months: the placement of that on a button where you press twice in quick succession for ApplePay (and three times for 911) is quite suboptimal, in my view.

    I was horrified and apologetic both times, since the darn thing is tough to turn off -- as it should well be -- since it starts to call 911 right away.

    turn on the count down feature which gives you  time to cancel and request before the call is actually made.

    Yeah, what a genius suggestion. Really useful in an actual emergency. Why didn’t Apple default to this?! Stupid Apple. 

    /s
    edited February 2018 bshankGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 10 of 22
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 257member
    Definitely calls for a faraday cage. That’s absurd. 
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Doodpants said:
    The cause is obvious: the repair process is painful for these devices, and they are calling out for help. Perhaps Apple needs to adopt more humane repair techniques. At least use some anasthetic before surgery!
    haha made me chuckle, can just imagine Siri whispering to the dispatch centre; help me, they're gonna remove my battery!
  • Reply 12 of 22
    bshankbshank Posts: 144member
    Dead display and techs try the old way to put the phone into recovery mode forgetting the new pattern of vol up, vol down, then hold power and lower volume button. I’m sure it happens all the time
  • Reply 13 of 22
    bshank said:
    Dead display and techs try the old way to put the phone into recovery mode forgetting the new pattern of vol up, vol down, then hold power and lower volume button. I’m sure it happens all the time
    So it’s a training issue.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    Mikes65 said:
    I have a case and when I am putting it on my iPhone 8, it hits all the right buttons and activates the Emergency Call button. My phone called 911 twice because of this. If a case can call 911 then I think the feature is to easy to accidentally activate.
    LOL...  Yeh, blame the phone...
  • Reply 15 of 22
    hexclock said:
    Mikes65 said:
    I have a case and when I am putting it on my iPhone 8, it hits all the right buttons and activates the Emergency Call button. My phone called 911 twice because of this. If a case can call 911 then I think the feature is to easy to accidentally activate.
    Easy solution: Power the phone down when putting the case back on. 
    Better solution:   Buy a better case that doesn't do that.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    I had to turn off the “Auto Call” slider in the iPhone X “Settings->Emergency SOS->Auto Call”. My new iPhone belt-attached caliper-style holder allowed the iPhone to slip down to the point where the emergency alarm was reliably triggered. Unfortunately, now that this feature is turned off, the iPhone disables normal access without pin entry - perhaps as an iPhone mugging-theft disable-as-you-hand-over-the-phone feature.

    It was somewhat amusing that the disabled “slider” emergency alarm control no longer warns me that the iPhone is “sliding” out of its caliper holder. 50% of the time (depending to which end it’s sliding) the iPhone was letting me know it was in an advanced state of being about to fall on the floor - by loudly trumpeting an impending emergency call. 

    No longer. Sigh. 


  • Reply 17 of 22
    My iPhone X calls 911 every time I clean the screen by rubbing it on my chest.  My previous iPhones never did this.  
  • Reply 18 of 22
    rcfarcfa Posts: 737member
    first they should find a better method to activate this, second, a repair facility where phones with faulty buttons etc. arrive to get fixed and which has land-lines for emergencies, should simply have a faraday cage, cell phone jammer or emergency services should not react to mobile calls from that facility.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    Poster story for the Timmy era.
    Bring back the Guy and make Apple great again
  • Reply 20 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,013member
    maestro64 said:
    turn on the count down feature which gives you  time to cancel and request before the call is actually made.

    This ^.


    SpamSandwich said…
    The implementation was not well thought out, that’s for sure.
    Bullshit ^.


    Mikes65 said:
     If a case can call 911 then I think the feature is to easy to accidentally activate.
    More bullshit ^. If a case can call 9-1-1 then it's a badly designed case and someone with at least a room temperature IQ would have tossed it the first time it happened or turn off the 9-1-1 feature.


    ronbo747 said:
    My iPhone X calls 911 every time I clean the screen by rubbing it on my chest.  My previous iPhones never did this.  
    Where to even start with this ^. Either you left of the /s or your IQ is less than room temperature.



    Apple could make videos that are interactive so their techs and customers could 'practice' activating and deactivating the 9-1-1 process without risk of triggering EMS calls.

    And Apple has enough money that if they don't want to increase training and performance standards (which they should do anyway) they can easily afford to have a Faraday cage installed or room built to end the calls (which they should do anyway).

    I don't know how long that's been going on, but it's something that should have been stopped immediately until a permeant solution was in place.

    What about a Faraday box? Put the Watches in a large lined box with provision for seeing the Watch, reach in through lined gauntlets with open fingers, and do minimal work on the Watches until they're rendered EMS-safe. If viable, it might be quicker to implement than a cage or room (which should be done anyway).
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