Emergency dispatchers keep receiving calls from an Apple repair center in Sacramento County, California. The dispatchers are taking up to 20 calls a day from the center, with around 1,600 logged since they started hitting the switchboard last October.
No, they’re not for real emergencies — Apple CEO Tim Cook would have to be really concerned if the center was suffering that many calamitous incidents every single day. Instead, the calls are being made in error, apparently from iPhones during the repair process.
Police dispatcher Jamie Hudson told a local CBS news outlet that the location of each call shows up on a display, and Apple’s address in Elk Grove keeps flashing up. There’s no one on the other end of the line when the erroneous calls come through, though with some of them you can apparently hear people talking in the background — about Apple devices and repairs.
The tech giant says it’s now investigating the matter. “We’re aware of 911 calls originating from our Elk Grove repair and refurbishment facility,” it said in a statement, adding, “We take this seriously and we are working closely with local law enforcement to investigate the cause and ensure this doesn’t continue.”
So what exactly is happening? It seems that during the repair process, technicians are somehow triggering the emergency call on the iPhone. Notably, the false calls seem to have started with the launch of iOS 11 last fall, which is when Apple included a new Emergency SOS feature.
Apple describes Emergency SOS as a “quick and easy” way to call the emergency services. With the iPhone X and iPhone 8, an emergency call is made by pressing and holding the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. It’s then a case of dragging the slider across to place the call. Alternatively, if you continue to hold down the side and volume buttons, a countdown starts and an alert sounds. Keep the buttons pressed until the countdown ends and the iPhone will automatically call emergency services.
For the iPhone 7 and earlier Apple handsets, you need to rapidly press the side button five times, at which point the Emergency SOS slider will appear. But it’s not clear why it seems to be only this particular repair center that’s making all the calls.
Jason Jimenez of the Elk Grove Police Department described 911 as “a lifeline for everyone in our community, so having these lines open and available is paramount,” but insisted that despite Apple’s regular calls, “public safety is not in danger.”
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