Apple Watch’s fall detection triggers false emergency calls at ski areas

“It’s a feature on the new Apple Watch that is designed to save lives,” Matt Kroschel reports for CBS Denver. “However, the smart watch is creating some frustration among emergency dispatch centers in ski resort towns across Colorado.”

“Dozens of false, accidental Apple Watch fall calls are being cataloged, according to information obtained exclusively by CBS4,” Kroschel reports. “The new Apple Watch Series 4 offers users a free equipped technology capable of detecting when someone has fallen. The problem is when skiers hit the slopes they forget to turn off the service. ”

“Vail and Summit County first responders treat the 911 calls from the watch as a real emergency each time, sending crews to GPS locations provided by the watch,” Kroschel reports. “But many users fail to realize the call has been made. While this person continues skiing, emergency responders are on a ‘wild goose chase to find them.’ …Summit County Dispatch says they received 10 to 12 false fall calls in recent weeks, but one call was for an actual victim who did need medical assistance.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So, obviously it would be best if Apple Watch could attempt to detect skiing motions (or perhaps the pretty unique swaying and gentle rise and fall of riding a ski lift) and then ask any user who has fall detection enabled, “It looks like you’re skiing. Would you like to turn off fall detection too could trigger 911 calls?”

26 Comments

  1. Unfortunately this happens to me last week and not annoyed my daughter (next of kin) every hour. She knew my movements so was surpred to get an alert with an Apple Maps location, completely in blue. Returning from the Isle of Alderney (British Travel Islands). We were at 8,000′ crossing the water so her rescue would have been difficult! Apple Store recommended unpair / repair. All solved.

  2. I have had Apple Watch since series 1.

    My Apple Watch 4 came with the fall feature ON. I didn’t even know it existed. And while playing goal at gym hockey the thing kept going off every time I would go down and make a save. I didn’t even know what it was. Stop the game, take off the goalie equipment say I am OK but I didn’t how to stop it. Finally I took off the watch and threw it in my gym bag while all my hockey “friends” gave me crap for constantly stopping the game.

    I recall no where in setup of the watch was there was an explanation of the feature or asking if I wanted it on. To have it be on by default is insanity. And if that’s because of age, (65) then the I would still expect an explanation screen with the default already set to off and asking if I want to turn it on.

  3. My Fall Alert has false alarmed a half dozen times while doing routine activities and never once was I off my two feet. I still appreciate the monitoring and expect it will become more accurate over time.

  4. I’ve had it go off a few time. Always when I’m watching football. When there is a great play and I raise my hands over my head and clap it goes off. This is very similar to what would happen if I fall so it makes sense. I can imagine there will be fewer and fewer false alarms as they work on this.

  5. I turned the feature off on my watch. I was sitting in a leather chair with armrests. My left hand was on the armrest. In talking to a friend, I quickly turned my hand clockwise, in a gesture, and the “fall” notification went on. I had to quickly turn that off by tapping that I fell but was ok. No other option I could quickly find. Otherwise it was going to call emergency services.

  6. what is needed is simply an option that allows the emergency call that is done after it detects a fall is for that call to go to a designated spouse or child or S.O., instead of automatically going to law enforcement / rescue services.
    a loved one will not mind being inconvenienced by false positives.
    let the designated called person call emergency services.

    1. I think all that’s really needed is for the Watch to tell you “You’re over 65. As a result, fall detection will be turned on….” with an explanation about calls to emergency responders. It should even give an update on your birthday when you turn 65. I have to believe that Apple just isn’t communicating this feature clearly as I’m assuming all of the Over 65 folks in this thread aren’t ignoring the setup.

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