Colorado ski town emergency dispatch centers fielding dozens of automated 911 calls from skier iPhones |

Colorado ski town emergency dispatch centers fielding dozens of automated 911 calls from skier iPhones

911 calls are never ignored, but sorting out which alerts from Apple iPhone 14s and watches are real is 'a tremendous drain' on resort town resources.

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
A 911 dispatcher, Eric Betts, fields an emergency call at the Summit County 911 Center on Dec. 23, 2022, in Frisco.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

The “crash detection” and “fall detection” features on the Apple iPhone 14 and watches automatically call 911 when the devices detect a sudden stop that, in concept, means the user has been involved in a car crash. The technology has been heralded for saving lives, but it’s not meshing well with skiers who can stop suddenly and often fall without the need for emergency help.

All of the automated 911 calls from skiers pouring into ski town emergency call centers this month — with a robot voice sharing latitude and longitude coordinates of a potentially injured party — were about snowy tumbles, not car wrecks. 

Dispatch operators in Grand, Eagle, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties — home to 12 very busy ski hills — are fielding record numbers of the automated calls from skiers’ Apple phones and watches, tying up emergency response resources. When 911 calls come in, they are handled in the order they arrive, so an automated call from a skier’s phone could delay response to a 911 caller with a real emergency.

Apple launched an automatic fall detection feature in its watches a couple years ago. That started a slow trickle of calls from the wrists of tumbling skiers to resort-area dispatch centers. The new iPhone 14 sends calls to 911 whenever the phone detects a jarring jolt it determines to be similar to a severe car crash. That has spiked the number of 911 calls from skier phones. 

Dispatchers in Grand County get about 20 to 30 of the automated calls a day from slopes at Winter Park and Ski Granby Ranch. 


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