How to set up fall detection on your Apple Watch

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited October 2020
The fall detection feature of the Apple Watch has been credited with helping emergency services get to an unconscious driver following a collision -- here's how to set it up.




A tweet from the Surrey Police in the United Kingdom advises there was an incident on local roads one week prior, where a driver had been "involved in a collision" and "had been knocked unconscious." In the tweet, the police reveal there was a response to an alert generated by the Apple Watch's fall detection feature, which sent GPS data to emergency responders guiding them to the injured party.

Surrey Police advised to AppleInsider the man "remains in hospital in a serious, but stable condition." An appeal for witnesses further describes him as aged in his "early 30s," with the incident occurring at just after 2am GMT on November 2 at Gatton Park Road, Redhill.

Last week we responded to an automated Apple Watch fall detection alert after a driver that was involved in a collision had been knocked unconscious.

The alarm provided emergency responders with GPS data to quickly locate the scene.

> @Apple @tim_cook pic.twitter.com/cmTW6K2na0

-- RPU - Surrey Police (@SurreyRoadCops)


In a follow-up tweet, the Surrey Police advise Apple Watch owners to consider setting up fall detection on their devices, as well as how to set up their medical ID, which can help emergency services identify the individual and to warn of existing medical conditions.

This is not the first time the Apple Watch's fall detection has been praised for saving a life. In April, an 80-year-old Munich woman was given assistance after the Apple Watch detected her fall in her apartment, while an 87-year-old woman in Maine was rescued by emergency services following a car accident in June.

Fall detection is available for anyone to set up on the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5, but it is disabled by default for users under the age of 65. For people aged 65 or over, fall detection is automatically offered to be enabled as part of the setup process.

How to set up fall detection on your Apple Watch

  • Open the Watch app on the iPhone linked to the Apple Watch in question

  • Select the My Watch tab

  • Tap Emergency SOS

  • Tap the toggle next to "Fall Detection"
Once enabled, the Apple Watch will attempt to alert users to a detected fall, and ask if they are fine. If there is no response, it will attempt to further alert the user with a tap of the wrist and an alarm sound, before it calls the emergency services.

Apple does warn of the presence of false positives, where an action by the user could be misinterpreted as a fall. The more physically active the wearer, the more likely the feature will be triggered, especially for high-impact activities.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    True story: I suffered a brain injury in January that has left me with severe balance issues. I took a few hard spills, so I set up the fall detection. However, when I fell, I landed right on my watch, destroying it. The unit likely saved my wrist from being broken, so that’s something.
    cy_starkmansvanstromSoli
  • Reply 2 of 26
    Mach32Mach32 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Last May 27th I walked out the door for my usual daily 4 or 5 mile walk. 2/10 of a mile from home I tripped and fell due to uneven sidewalk. I fell and broke my left elbow, dislocated and broke my left hip and plenty of lacerations on my face. As I laid on the sidewalk gathering my wits and determining if I could move, my Series 4 called 911. I cancelled the call as I wanted to see if I could get up on my own. ( I didn't know the severity of my situation ) A few minutes later I did use it to call 911 on my own. Good to know had I been knocked unconscious the watch would have done its job as advertised.  A potential lifesaver for many people. 
    cy_starkmansvanstromStrangeDaysSolifastasleepdavesmallGeorgeBMacdavgregwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,508member
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
  • Reply 4 of 26
    soulbarn said:
    True story: I suffered a brain injury in January that has left me with severe balance issues. I took a few hard spills, so I set up the fall detection. However, when I fell, I landed right on my watch, destroying it. The unit likely saved my wrist from being broken, so that’s something.
    Which model, and how did it break?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 26
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I'm very active and I've never had it auto-detect a fall. Since you do have time to disable it calling Emergency Services I'd say it's good to keep it on and see how it performs for you now with the OS and possibly HW updates you'd had since that incident.
    svanstromStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    melgross said:
    But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    Pretty sure it's not going to do anything if it's not on your wrist.
    StrangeDaysGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    melgross said:
    But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    Pretty sure it's not going to do anything if it's not on your wrist.
    Yeah, mine won't do much of anything except a preset alarm when not on my wrist AND authenticated.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 26
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,135member
    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    Yeah you want to accept false positives rather than not have it sensitive enough. I bought it for my father who is still fairly active but alone now. It gives you a minute or so of warnings before it calls emergency. It’s worth it.
    svanstromwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I've had a couple false alarms (and one real one!).  The latest false alarm was last night while shooting hoops with my grandson -- I was simply standing beside the basket when my phone tapped me on my wrist asking if it should call 911.

    I wish Apple would change that notification to both tap the wrist as well as a noticeable audio signal because the tap on the wrist is just too easy to miss which could trigger a call to 911 for no reason. 

    I love the fall detection feature and that it will automatically call for me -- but they need to do more to prevent false alarms.   The Watch is perfectly capable of a verbal question such as: "Did you fall?  Should I call 911?" and would be a valuable (but easily implemented) enhancement.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I'm very active and I've never had it auto-detect a fall. Since you do have time to disable it calling Emergency Services I'd say it's good to keep it on and see how it performs for you now with the OS and possibly HW updates you'd had since that incident.
    Mine has falsely detected a fall twice (since I got it in September -- less than 2 months ago).  The first time was when I sat down quickly and kind of hard into a metal lawn chair.  The second was last night when I was shooting hoops with my grandson - that might have been triggered by my throwing my hands up and backward to rebound the ball -- but Apple uses that arm motion to detect a backwards fall.

    It's a truly great feature, but they need to work on false alarms.  At minimum they need to upgrade the little tap on the wrist it gives you before calling 911 -- that is simply too easy to miss.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 26
    My Apple Watch issues a false alarm at least once a day, requiring me to manually cancel the call to 911. Activities that trigger the alarm include applauding at the theatre, bumping gently against furniture or banging on a jar lid to loosen it. The one time I actually DID fall, I landed hard on a slick marble floor, with no response at all from the Watch! 
  • Reply 12 of 26
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 1,031member
    Pound your fist on a counter/table 2-3 times. It will show a hard fall.
    You do not have to do it that hard.

    When I did fall on some freezing fog/black ice on a ramp it did not go off as my left wrist (with the watch) broke the fall. I suffered an avulsion fracture of a carpal bone on that wrist- I do not know if having the watch on that wrist had anything to do with the injury (hyperextension).
  • Reply 13 of 26
    davgreg said:
    Pound your fist on a counter/table 2-3 times. It will show a hard fall.
    You do not have to do it that hard.
    Well, you trigger the fall detection by simulating the forces that could indicate a fall… Not much of a surprise there.
    davgreg said:
    When I did fall on some freezing fog/black ice on a ramp it did not go off as my left wrist (with the watch) broke the fall. I suffered an avulsion fracture of a carpal bone on that wrist- I do not know if having the watch on that wrist had anything to do with the injury (hyperextension).

    You're obviously falling wrong. Have you tried attaching it differently, or using a bumper?
    Soli
  • Reply 14 of 26
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,508member
    Soli said:
    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I'm very active and I've never had it auto-detect a fall. Since you do have time to disable it calling Emergency Services I'd say it's good to keep it on and see how it performs for you now with the OS and possibly HW updates you'd had since that incident.
    As I said, I just don’t trust it. You don’t have that much time. If it ends up behind, or under something, your time could run out. I suppose if I had a propensity to fall, I would take the chance. But the last time I fell was over 40 years ago when I slipped on ice, and unconsciously thought to save my Leica by holding that hand up when I fell, spraining my other wrist.
  • Reply 15 of 26
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,508member

    melgross said:
    But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    Pretty sure it's not going to do anything if it's not on your wrist.
    Pretty sure you don’t know that.
  • Reply 16 of 26
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    melgross said:
    melgross said:
    But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    Pretty sure it's not going to do anything if it's not on your wrist.
    Pretty sure you don’t know that.
    You think if you dropped an Apple Watch that was not authenticated that it would still call Emergency Services if dropped? If that's the case, then Apple really should follow Michael Dell's advice about shutting the doors for good.
    fastasleepGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 26
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,508member

    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I've had a couple false alarms (and one real one!).  The latest false alarm was last night while shooting hoops with my grandson -- I was simply standing beside the basket when my phone tapped me on my wrist asking if it should call 911.

    I wish Apple would change that notification to both tap the wrist as well as a noticeable audio signal because the tap on the wrist is just too easy to miss which could trigger a call to 911 for no reason. 

    I love the fall detection feature and that it will automatically call for me -- but they need to do more to prevent false alarms.   The Watch is perfectly capable of a verbal question such as: "Did you fall?  Should I call 911?" and would be a valuable (but easily implemented) enhancement.
    Yes, that’s a problem. I get calls on my phone and watch, and if I’m active, or it’s noisy, I won’t notice. That’s another reason I have it off. But if Apple improves that in some way, though I think it’s difficult, I’d likely try it again.

    i’d like to point out that this feature is mainly aimed at people who have problems, not at people who don’t. It’s meant for people who might fall, but won’t be able to call. Yes, I know, it’s. Always possible for anyone to fall so that they can’t call, but that’s really rare.
    edited November 2019
  • Reply 18 of 26
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,035member
    melgross said:

    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I've had a couple false alarms (and one real one!).  The latest false alarm was last night while shooting hoops with my grandson -- I was simply standing beside the basket when my phone tapped me on my wrist asking if it should call 911.

    I wish Apple would change that notification to both tap the wrist as well as a noticeable audio signal because the tap on the wrist is just too easy to miss which could trigger a call to 911 for no reason. 

    I love the fall detection feature and that it will automatically call for me -- but they need to do more to prevent false alarms.   The Watch is perfectly capable of a verbal question such as: "Did you fall?  Should I call 911?" and would be a valuable (but easily implemented) enhancement.
    Yes, that’s a problem. I get calls on my phone and watch, and if I’m active, or it’s noisy, I won’t notice. That’s another reason I have it off. But if Apple improves that in some way, though I think it’s difficult, I’d likely try it again.

    i’d like to point out that this feature is mainly aimed at people who have problems, not at people who don’t. It’s meant for people who might fall, but won’t be able to call. Yes, I know, it’s. Always possible for anyone to fall so that they can’t call, but that’s really rare.
    Umm...
    fastasleep
  • Reply 19 of 26
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,397member
    melgross said:

    melgross said:
    But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    Pretty sure it's not going to do anything if it's not on your wrist.
    Pretty sure you don’t know that.
    Pretty sure I do.

    If Apple Watch Series 4 or later detects a hard fall while you're wearing your watch

    [...]

    If your watch detects that you have been immobile for about a minute, it will make the call automatically.


    [...]

    Wrist Detection must be turned on for your watch to automatically call emergency services


    Seems pretty clear to me.

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208944

    Soliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    melgross said:

    melgross said:
    Fall detection is the only feature I don’t trust. I was at a convention, sitting in a comfortable armchair, turned my wrist over, and the detection went on and I quickly had to tell it not to dial. I immediately turned it off.

    i don’t know if this was a one off error or not, as reviewers tried to set it off with fake falls, and they couldn’t. But I don’t want to take the chance it will fall off a bedside end table, end up under the bad, and before I get to it, call emergency services.
    I've had a couple false alarms (and one real one!).  The latest false alarm was last night while shooting hoops with my grandson -- I was simply standing beside the basket when my phone tapped me on my wrist asking if it should call 911.

    I wish Apple would change that notification to both tap the wrist as well as a noticeable audio signal because the tap on the wrist is just too easy to miss which could trigger a call to 911 for no reason. 

    I love the fall detection feature and that it will automatically call for me -- but they need to do more to prevent false alarms.   The Watch is perfectly capable of a verbal question such as: "Did you fall?  Should I call 911?" and would be a valuable (but easily implemented) enhancement.
    Yes, that’s a problem. I get calls on my phone and watch, and if I’m active, or it’s noisy, I won’t notice. That’s another reason I have it off. But if Apple improves that in some way, though I think it’s difficult, I’d likely try it again.

    i’d like to point out that this feature is mainly aimed at people who have problems, not at people who don’t. It’s meant for people who might fall, but won’t be able to call. Yes, I know, it’s. Always possible for anyone to fall so that they can’t call, but that’s really rare.
    I think a significant determinant might be how much, how often, one is alone -- along with a propensity to fall (which could be triggered by either frailty or an active lifestyle).  That is, even a frail, older person living with another person who is always with them would have less need for it.  But, any person living alone could fall, hit their head and be unable to call.

    But the biggest benefit is for the darn thing to be on your wrist so it is available when the unthinkable happens.
    watto_cobra
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