Accidental 911 calling instances were on the rise in Guelph and Wellington County in Ontario in May.
This comes after a recent software update that might have re-enabled the Emergency SOS feature on Android devices.
The Android Emergency SOS feature is a safety feature that allows you to call 911 or other emergency services by pressing the power button five times in a row. This feature is available on Android 12 or later, and it may be turned on by default after a software update. The Emergency SOS feature can also send a message to your emergency contacts with your location, an audio recording, and a request for help.
While the Emergency SOS feature can be handy in a real emergency, it can also cause accidental 911 calls if you press the power button unintentionally when it is in your pocket.
ADVISORY: OPP Comm Centres have seen a significant increase in 911 hang-ups. This may be linked to an Android update that turns on Emergency SOS. You could easily dial 911 without knowing. Please, check your phone. Ensure 911 lines are available for life-threatening emergencies. pic.twitter.com/E08xsUji6u
— OPPCommunicationsWR (@OPP_COMM_WR) May 30, 2023
According to Guelph police spokesperson, in a statement given to GuelphToday, “(Accidental 911) calls in May were up approximately 25 per cent from April, which was up slightly from March.” Similarly, Wellington County OPP has also noticed the number of accidental 911 calls going up.
The RCMP in British Columbia said that its dispatch centers also received several accidental 911 calls per day from Android phones in May.
Accidental 911 calls can have a significant impact on emergency services and waste valuable resources. They can also put you in an awkward situation if you have to explain to the dispatcher that there is no emergency.
The Android Emergency SOS feature can be a lifesaver in a real emergency, but it can also cause trouble if you’re not careful.
To turn off the Emergency SOS feature, go to Settings > Safety and Emergency > Emergency SOS and toggle it off.
It’s worth noting that accidental Emergency SOS calls aren’t native to Android. Last year, Apple’s Emergency SOS feature was notorious for making false emergency calls when the wearer of an Apple Watch or an iPhone user was riding on a roller coaster. It was discovered that Crash Detection also sometimes gives false positives when the user participates in winter sports like skiing.
In December last year, an iPhone stashed in the glove box of a snowmobile in British Columbia’s backcountry falsely alerted authorities about an emergency. An exhaustive and intensive search involving the RCMP and a helicopter ensued. It’s estimated the search cost Canadian tax payer’s roughly $10,000.