Butt-dial of iPhone Emergency SOS via satellite still summons helicopter rescue

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in iPhone

While enjoying a trip through Dinosaur National Monument, one hiker found himself the subject of a helicopter search-and-rescue mission after falsely activating his iPhone's Emergency SOS via satellite feature.

The different stages of using Emergency SOS via Satellite.
The different stages of using Emergency SOS via Satellite.



During Tuesday's iPhone 15 event, Apple kicked off the event with a heartwarming video about how Apple Products have saved the lives of users across the globe. It touted the benefits of features like active heart rate monitoring, Emergency SOS via satellite, and crash detection.

However, as we've learned before, it's possible for certain health and safety features to be triggered inadvertently. GeekWire co-founder, John Cook, shares a story in which that exact scenario happens.

In June, Cook headed out for his yearly hike in Dinosaur National Monument. This year, he took along his iPhone 14, thinking it'd be a good idea to have a phone with satellite capabilities on hand in case of emergency.

What he didn't expect, however, was to be the subject of an accidental search and rescue mission.

"In the process of turning off the phone (or what I thought was turning off the phone by simultaneously holding the volume and side button), I inadvertently -- and to this day I do not know what happened -- set off a satellite SOS alert," Cook writes.

"Thinking my phone was turned off, I tossed it into my fanny pack and headed back down the canyon."

As it turns out, Cook had inadvertently sent a satellite SOS to more than a dozen local search and rescue personnel. The report he sent stated that someone had fallen ill or gotten injured.

He hadn't realized his error until a half-hour later, when he spotted a rescue helicopter in his area. Upon checking his phone, he realized that emergency services had contacted him to ask about the nature of the emergency.

After quick thinking by a trail guide, they dismissed the search and rescue team. Still, Cook isn't sure how he sent the alert in the first place.

Seeking answers, Cook contacted the National Park Service to see if this was an ongoing problem. According to Brian Sikes, deputy chief of emergency services at the National Park Service, it hasn't been a major issue.

"Looking over the current data, we have not seen a significant uptick in the iPhone 14 false alarms or unintentional activations, but we've had a couple," Sikes told Cook.

Jason Griswold, chief ranger at Dinosaur National Monument, also noted that there have not been many false alarms. The park has no plans to limit the use of satellite phone technology within its borders.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    I’ve only done the simulated test, but thought you had to manually track a satellite thru the sky. Guess not?
    Alex1Nbonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 8
    This sounds a little fishy IMO. He probably purposely activated it to “test” it or what have you, then made up the story about it being an accident when the search teams came for him. It’s not like crash detection, you have several very purposeful steps to do before emergency responders are sent for you.
    entropysAlex1Nbonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 8
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,534member
    I’ve only done the simulated test, but thought you had to manually track a satellite thru the sky. Guess not?
    I thought the same thing. Maybe he was twerking. 
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 8
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,413member
    I’ve only done the simulated test, but thought you had to manually track a satellite thru the sky. Guess not?
    If you can manually track a satellite, this will keep you in contact with emergency services longer so you can answer various questions. But once activated, the iPhone will wait until a satellite is in range and send an automated message without you doing anything, as a number of victims who were unconscious have since discovered.
    beowulfschmidtappleinsideruserwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 8
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,097member
    Charge him or give him a ticket.
  • Reply 6 of 8
    danox said:
    Charge him or give him a ticket.

    Yes, by all means, let's punish everyone who accidentally activates this feature so that they just turn it off and make it useless. /s

    Even accidental calls to normal 911 aren't usually punished, unless it becomes egregious or responders determine that it was a fraudulent call.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 8
    chasm said:
    I’ve only done the simulated test, but thought you had to manually track a satellite thru the sky. Guess not?
    If you can manually track a satellite, this will keep you in contact with emergency services longer so you can answer various questions. But once activated, the iPhone will wait until a satellite is in range and send an automated message without you doing anything, as a number of victims who were unconscious have since discovered.

    This is exactly the behaviour I would hope, and expect, would be the case.  It's technologically more challenging, of course, but if I'm unconscious or unable to move, I'd want my phone to keep trying to contact emergency services after activating, even if I could not do much to facilitate the process.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 8

    He hadn't realized his error until a half-hour later, when he spotted a rescue helicopter in his area. Upon checking his phone, he realized that emergency services had contacted him to ask about the nature of the emergency.

    If his iPhone had recorded the fact that emergency services had tried to contact him, then Apple could change iOS to allow emergency services to bypass any "silent mode" setting and push the call through anyway. In this particular case, the user's phone would have "ringed" because we see from this report that the iPhone recorded that the call reached him. So Apple can fix this.
    watto_cobra
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