An iPhone feature has drawn concern from law enforcement

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:06 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - An iPhone feature meant to be helpful in an emergency has proved to be the opposite at times.

“It ties up our resources. Our message to people is if you’re going to participate in these activities, be aware that your phone could be calling 911 when it isn’t an emergency, and you could potentially block someone who is having an emergency,” said Sheriff Brent Waak.

His office in Polk County posted on social media an advisory of the crash detection feature on the iPhone.

AuGust Ringelstetter, who works as an Apple technician at MacMan in Eau Claire, explains the feature.

“Crash detection is relatively new actually. It’s only available on iPhone 14, 14 pro, on apple watch series 8 and apple watch ultra,” said Ringelstetter.

He said there is a small window of time the use has to prevent the call for help if the feature is triggered.

“If you respond within those 20 seconds you can actually stop it from calling emergency services,” said Ringelstetter.

The Chippewa County Sheriff’s office also posted an advisory about the feature, and urges users to pay attention.

“Just be responsive. We have an obligation to make sure you are okay,” said Sheriff Travis Hakes.

Ringelstetter suggest this for users with the feature turned on.

“If you’re going somewhere where you’ll be going fast an stopping or if there is loud bangs, crashes and stuff like that, that’s something you may want to have the crash detection turned off,” said Ringelstetter.

Law enforcement officials hope the false alarms do not lead to the grave mistake of ignoring someone in actual need.

“It’s just unfortunate we are getting so many false alarms on it that it’s going to turn into a situation where if there was a true emergency people may not... they’ll think ‘oh, it’s just another false alarm,” said Sheriff Waak.

“We’d rather have the system in place and know that it works, and respond to a thousand unintentional calls, than to not respond to that one call we really needed to.,” said Sheriff Hakes.

Polk County Sheriff Waak said the same issue will likely occur in the summer with those who ride ATVs.

Ringelstetter said Apple is still working on updates for the crash detect feature. You can follow the stores blog here.