Last year's updates for Apple Watches and iPhones were supposed to make requesting emergency assistance easier and faster, but in one California county, Apple could be interfering with the response process by bombarding local emergency systems with false alarms.
Emergency responders in Elk Grove and Sacramento County say they have been receiving about 20 calls a day from a single Apple repair and refurbishing site, according to a report from CBS Sacramento. Since the problem began in October, about 1,600 calls were reportedly made from the facility.
"We've been seeing these calls for the last four months from Apple," Elk Grove police dispatcher Jamie Hudson told CBS Sacramento. "The times when it's greatly impacting us is when we have other emergencies happening, and we may have a dispatcher on another 911 call that may have to put that call on hold to triage the incoming call."
According to the news station, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Communication Center has also been getting calls from the Apple facility. The agency has reportedly received about 47 calls since the beginning of the year. Sgt. Shaun Hampton of the Sheriff's department told the local news outlet that the dispatchers heard voices "talking about Apple, or devices, or generally about maintenance and repairs."
The Elk Grove facility is Apple's main refurbishing center. In 2013, Apple opened a second repair site in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
In September of last year, Apple released iOS 11, which has a feature that makes it easier for users to make emergency calls by pressing the side button five times in quick succession. iPhone users can also call 911 by holding down the volume and side button for a few seconds and swiping across the SOS slider. To call 911 on the Apple Watch, the user just has to hold down the side button and then swipe.
Earlier this month, an Ottawa County, Michigan, dispatcher told a local outlet that his staff gets about ten Apple-related emergency misfires a week. Last year, the Tolland County Mutual Aid Fire Service in Connecticut warned Apple that it was causing a rise in false alarms. But the Elk Grove affair seems to be the first time there has been such a glut of emergency calls from a single location.
Apple did not respond to a Gizmodo request for comment, but an Apple spokesperson told CBS Sacramento, "We're aware of 911 calls originating from our Elk Grove repair and refurbishment facility. We take this seriously and we are working closely with local law enforcement to investigate the cause and ensure this doesn't continue."
Let's hope Apple's investigation uncovers a simple solution to this matter - and not a basement full of technicians calling out for help.