FRISCO, Colo. — On a recent sunny Sunday morning, following a night of fluffy snowfall, tens of thousands of skiers flocked to the resorts of Summit County.
Just minutes after the lift lines opened, sirens began blaring in the 911 emergency service center, where four staff members were taking calls and dispatching help.
Each jarring alert was a new incoming call, heralding a possible car crash, heart attack or other life-threatening situation.
Often, the phone operators heard a chilling sound at the far end of the line: silence, perhaps from a caller too incapacitated to respond.
At 9:07 a.m., one dispatcher, Eric Betts, responded to such a call. From the map on one of the seven monitors on his desk, he could see that the distress call originated from a slope at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Mr. Betts tried calling back. A man picked up.
“My whole day is managing crash notifications.” – Trina Dummer, Summit Co., Colorado emergency services director
“Do you have an emergency?” Mr. Betts asked. No, the man said, he was skiing — safely, happily, unharmed. Slightly annoyed, he added, “For the last three days, my watch has been dialing 911.”
Winter has brought a decent amount of snowfall to the region’s ski resorts, and with it an avalanche of false emergency calls.
Virtually all of them have been placed by Apple Watches or iPhone 14s under the mistaken impression that their owners have been debilitated in collisions.
As of September, these devices have come equipped with technology meant to detect car crashes and alert 911 dispatchers.
It is a more sensitive upgrade to software on Apple devices, now several years old, that can detect when a user falls and then dial for help.
But the latest innovation appears to send the device into overdrive: It keeps mistaking skiers, and some other fitness enthusiasts, for car-wreck victims … READ MORE [subscription may be required]