Smart devices causing more 911 hang-ups

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Eau Claire County Communications Center says it is having major issues with people calling 911 and hanging up.

The numbers are in and last year, they received more than 3,600 911 hang up calls and that trend is continuing into the new year.

"So far in 2020, we are only in the 14th of January and we've investigated over 120 911 hang up calls,” said Josh Miller of the Eau Claire Police Department. “37 of those had to have an actual officer sent to them."

"911 hang-ups are continuous all day long from cell phones, watches, home phones, everything,” said Dispatch Supervisor Aileen Bush. “We take several a day."

Bush says these calls can impact higher priority emergencies in the area.

"If they don't answer and we can locate them through GPS, we will send officers,” she said. “That takes time away from any other call that could be a little more urgent or higher priority."

But now new types of hang-up calls are coming in.

“We take a few a day at least, just from an apple watch,” Bush said.

The emergency settings on your smartwatch or phone can accidentally call 911 without you even knowing.

"Sometimes they hang up quick so we do call them back and if they do stay on the line they are confused and don't understand because they don't know how the product they're using actually works,” Bush said.

There is an option to turn off these settings and even enable a loud countdown in case you accidently activate the emergency call so you have time to cancel it.

Just go into your phone's settings, and go under "emergency SOS”, then you can choose to turn on or off the side call function, auto call function, and enable a countdown.

Miller says while these accidental 911 calls can be a nuisance, the settings can also have the ability to save lives.

"There are times where it can save a life and it can get us to a situation where someone legitimately needs help, we just have to take the good with the bad and unfortunately it takes up a lot of our time investigating those false calls to get to those ones that really require our attention,” he said.

It is important to remember that if you do accidentally call 911, to not hang up and to answer if they call back, otherwise they will send officers to your location.