Apple Watches have contributed to a record rise in 999 calls, police chiefs have warned, amid a rise in accidental calls to emergency services.
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said recent software updates to smart devices were having “a significant impact” on the volume of emergency calls logged by law enforcement.
It comes amid a reported increase in cases of people with Apple Watches accidentally dialing 999 during workouts at the gym.
Lifting weights, running and even yoga were found to trigger the SOS feature on the devices after they were upgraded to detect traumatic events like car crashes.
Apple Watches emit a deafening squeal before dialing 999 if the side button is held down for more than 10 seconds.
The SOS feature on newer devices is also designed to be activated by “a hard fall”, and the latest models are supposed to do the same in car crashes.
But one Apple customer says his watch read 999 in the middle of a weight-lifting session with his jaw-dropping personal trainer.
He said: “I know that personal training can be considered torture, but this is ridiculous. He had no idea what was going on when the clock made a loud chirp that sounded like a rape alarm.
“However, the coach guessed and immediately warned me that I could score 999.
“I thought it was a joke until I heard the emergency operator ask what service I needed.
“When I told the emergency operator what had happened, she didn’t seem surprised at all. She just told me to hang up.”
The NPCC, an organization representing police chiefs, said: “Nationwide, all emergency services are currently experiencing record volume of 999 calls.
“These ‘silent calls’, as they are called, go to police control rooms and the result has been a significant increase in silent calls.
“NPCC urges the public to stay online if it happens and inform the operator that it was a false alarm.
“Calls to 999 where the operator cannot hear anyone on the line (silent calls) are never ignored,” a spokesperson added.
“Call handlers will need to spend valuable time trying to call you back to see if you need help.”
They stressed that the ‘SOS Emergency’ feature can be disabled in the settings.
Devon and Cornwall Police, one of the forces experiencing the surge, said silent calls take 20 minutes to answer and on a busy night they received 169 of them.
Apple’s UK press office referred questions about its devices to its public website.
BT, which operates the 999 service, said: “Over the past few months, we have seen an increase in incoming call volumes year-on-year compared to 2022. For example, the average daily call volume for May was just over 23 percent higher than the same period last year.”