Lake Co. officials seeing surge of accidental 911 calls from Apple Watches

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. -- Officials in Lake County have been seeing a rise of accidental 911 calls from residents' smart watches.

When Apple released its new watch about one year ago, it came with a new feature that lets users press and hold a button on the side of the device to call 911 for help. Since then, 911 call centers across the country, and in the Chicago area, have been experiencing a problem with accidental calls.

When you wear the watch and bend at the wrist, it can put pressure on the button which will then call 911. It takes about three seconds of pressing the button for the call to go out. It will also alert your emergency contact. The watch will then make a loud beeping noise. Some people don't know that this feature has been activated on their device.

Officials in Lake County said these accidental calls are happening more than people may think.

"Maybe a child activating it, maybe during their sleep. People wear the watches to monitor their sleep habits and if they fall asleep on the button in a certain way it can force the watch to call 911," Kent McKenzie, director of communications at the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said.

Dispatchers said they've been receiving up to 10 accidental Apple Watch calls a day in Lake County alone. The calls come from people working out or even driving. Emergency call centers in Aurora and Kane County have reported the same issue.

"If we have an open line and can't identify what's going on, we're going to dispatch officers to the location, and that takes away from officers who could respond to other incidents," Kent said.

Officials said if this happens to you, dispatchers will attempt to call you on your cellphone. They say to stay on the line and explain it was just a mistake so they don't have to send help.

There is a way to disable the feature on an Apple Watch:

  • Go to the Apple Watch app
  • Click "Emergency SOS"
  • Click off "Hold Side Button"

As for the watch itself and the feature, some say it's a great resource.

"... I think knowing this is an issue, Apple may want to re-look at the design and put the button in a different place,"  Charisce Anderson, a Lake County 911 dispatcher, said.

Apple has not responded to a request for comment.