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First responders receiving false reports from crash detection software

UPDATE (Dec. 15, 2022):

Apple users should make sure to update their phones to avoid sending out false alarms to first responders.

The company said changes to iPhone and Apple Watch firmware should prevent unnecessary activation of its crash detection feature.

“BCSARA [B.C. Search and Rescue Association] has been in discussion with Apple and there was a firmware update issued yesterday [Dec. 13] that is designed to avoid false activations of their new crash detection system, which is a feature on the Apple iPhone 14 and some Apple watches,” said BCSARA officials. “Please help us by updating your Apple device firmware to prevent unnecessary search and rescue callouts.”

ORIGINAL STORY (Dec. 13, 2022):

Apple’s crash detection software has police and search and rescue crews around the Kootenays responding to a number of false alarms.

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Golden and District Search and Rescue in particular received three calls in two days over the weekend from skiers and snowmobilers who did not need help.

Kimberley SAR has received a false report as well.

Golden-Field RCMP said these calls can cost upwards of $10,000 to mobilize rescue equipment and first responders.

Meanwhile, Trail RCMP received an emergency alert from a smartwatch stating that its wearer was in a severe car accident in Rossland.

Officers and emergency health services searched the area with no results, and no additional reports of a vehicle accident came in.

Police officials determined that this was also a false report.

“The investigating officers concluded that someone may have fallen while skiing at the local resort and the fall triggered the severe car accident alert,” said Trail RCMP officials.

These reports come from iPhone 14 and Apple Watches with the latest iOS and watchOS updates.

Golden and District Search and Rescue officials said the iPhone will sound an alarm and send an alert if the software thinks its user has been in a crash.

The software may interpret a sudden stop, such as those you may make while skiing or snowmobiling, as a serious accident.

If you do not respond within 20 seconds, your device will automatically call first responders with your GPS location.

“You can imagine how easy it would be to miss this if you were sledding or skiing and did not hear the alarm,” said Golden and District SAR officials. “We urge you to consider this when going into the backcountry. Look up your model of device and how you can mitigate unnecessary emergency calls.”

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