Uh, oh, my watch is texting 911

The other night my Apple watch woke me up with an alarm and said it was calling emergency services. I guess I bumped it wrong. How many accidental Apple watch calls does emergency services get that turn out to be false alarms?

— Vickie N., Medford


Cellphones and watches do seem to have a mind of their own sometimes, Vickie. Pretty soon, they'll be doing all the thinking for us.

We've certainly heard of false 911 calls on cellphones before, but in 2017 Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon, otherwise known as the 911 center, began accepting texts from devices.

"We've had about a couple dozen times when a watch or phone inadvertently placed a text call," said Johnna Pellam, performance manager at the dispatch center.

She said most of the time people have no idea how the device made the text. The same is true for calls made inadvertently by cellphone.

"We get 911 calls where no one was there," she said.

As to your question, Vickie, the 911 center has no idea what kind of device placed the text. The technology at the center has no way of detecting whether it's an Apple device or something else. However, the latitude and longitude of the device is available to dispatchers, which is handy when sending emergency crews out on a call.

Obviously, the ability to text a 911 call is critical in many situations, including cases where someone is being held hostage or where the person could be in danger if they spoke.

But inadvertent calls or texts are just part of a day's work for the dispatch operators, and they make follow-up calls to verify whether it is a true emergency.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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