The fall detection of Apple Watch and iPhone occupies the emergency services in the USA. You are faced with a new problem: Winter sports enthusiasts in ski areas are triggering masses of false alarms.

The emergency call function of the Apple Watch should help to quickly report serious falls and accidents to the emergency services. But instead of providing a remedy, Apple’s fall detection system in the US often calls emergency services when skiers and snowboarders suffer a non-hazardous fall.

Since the start of the ski season, the Greene County Board of Upstate New York has seen a sharp increase in emergency calls compared to the same period last year. 22 percent more emergency calls are being received from popular ski areas of Windham and Hunter Mountains. The caller then hangs up or does not answer because the emergency call was dialed accidentally.

“We’re still seeing a 15 to 25 percent increase in calls [over the past year] that could very well be being caused by these Apple-generated and automated incident reports,” said Jim DiPerna, director of emergency communications at the company District of the New York Post.

According to the manufacturer, the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 4 or newer models should be able to recognize a serious fall and then automatically make an emergency call. If wrist recognition is activated, the device “taps” the user’s wrist after a fall and emits an alarm. If a movement is registered after the fall, it waits about a minute for a reaction. If there is no movement or reaction to the sustained alarm tone during this time, the Apple Watch alerts the emergency services. If you also have an iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro, notifications should be sent to the emergency services via satellite.

However, Apple points out on its website: “The Apple Watch cannot detect all falls. Your watch may recognize extreme activity as a fall and trigger a fall detection.”

Apple Watch: Automatic emergency call function is a problem for emergency services

The responsible authorities know this too. If an emergency call comes in, it is first necessary to clarify whether it is a real emergency. If the caller does not speak, the emergency services try to locate the device and pass the location on to the local ski patrol, DiPerna explains to the New York Post. “In the worst case, we try to find out where they are, what went wrong and what resources we need to send to solve the problem.”

The automatically made emergency calls are therefore a huge problem for the emergency services. And that also affects the emergency services in Pennsylvania, where there are other ski areas. Here, the false emergency calls are perceived as “exhausting”. “You have enough to do already,” says Deputy Agency Manager Justin Markell of his team.

A spokesman for Apple said the company was in contact with emergency services and was getting their feedback. However, he did not comment on how the feature might be updated in the future to prevent false emergency calls from Apple devices.

Sources: New York Post, Apple