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Smart phones or watches might be calling 911 without you knowing, and dispatchers need it to stop

How fake emergency calls are clogging 911 dispatch centers
How fake emergency calls are clogging 911 dispatch centers 02:34

We're talking between 40 to 60 fake 911 calls a day, coming into the Summit County Dispatch Center. Team members expect this only to get worse as the season picks up for skiers. 

Summit County Director 911, Trina Dummer, was more than happy to sit down with CBS News Colorado to get a message out to the public before a big gift-giving holiday begins. She warns that some versions of Apple Watches and iPhone 14s have a system on them that automatically sends a 911 call if they detect a crash. 


The issue is, every one of those calls that came in this year have not been real emergencies. The calls have been people crashing while skiing but being fine or even stopping too suddenly while skiing. 

The alert system gives someone 20 seconds to stop the alarm from going out to dispatch, but according to dispatchers that's simply not happening for whatever reason.

Mark Watson, Summit County Sheriff special ops sergeant, said he believes it's because people are trying to keep their tech warm on the ski slopes so the battery lasts, but that also means it takes longer to get to. 


"If your iPhone is in your backpack where it might take longer than 20 seconds to turn it off or they just don't hear," Watson said. "It's going to overwhelm everyone (at dispatch). We are expecting we could be seeing over 100 a day here as things start progressing through the year." 

Tom Dale, the dispatch supervisor for the Clear Creek County 911 Call Center said they're getting fake calls daily too on Loveland Ski Resort. 

"They have increased the sensitivity of the crash detection on their watches and phones, so skiers are taking routine falls on the mountain and it's alerting our center to a possible car crash...on the mountain."

CBS News Colorado wants to point out there are not, in fact, car crashes on Loveland Ski Resort hills, regardless of what Apple devices are telling dispatchers.  


Dale is not saying people should turn this feature off but said people should know how to operate it and know how to stop false alarms from getting sent out. 

Watson in Summit County echoed that message, pointing out that people need to take this seriously because it's seriously hurting dispatch's ability to respond to emergencies.

"It is a 911 call and is going to an emergency 911 call center, it's not a joke," Watson said.

Besides taking valuable time away from dispatchers, the way Summit County's system works means that one of these automated calls, left unanswered, will take priority over a real emergency. 


CBS News Colorado reporter Spencer Wilson asked if there was a dispatcher on the phone helping someone perform CPR, and they got one of these fake calls, which takes priority.

Dummer said the automated call does, meaning a dispatcher will have to put someone on hold while they try to figure out if this one call is actually for real, although none of them ever have been.

"It's a very serious compromise to public safety, and I'm very concerned," Dummer said. 

CBS News Colorado does not encourage people to turn off the setting, but if you are interested in learning more about the setting and how it works on your devices, you can go here for more info.

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