Colorado ski town emergency dispatch centers fielding dozens of automated 911 calls from skier iPhones

911 calls are never ignored, but sorting out which alerts from Apple iPhone 14s and watches are real is “a tremendous drain” on resort town resources.

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
A 911 dispatcher, Eric Betts, fields an emergency call at the Summit County 911 Center, Friday morning, Dec. 23, in Frisco.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Dispatchers at the Summit County 911 Center fielded 71 automated crash notifications from skiers’ iPhones and Apple watches at the county’s four ski areas last weekend. None of them involved an emergency.

But each of them took time to sort out. If the skier did not answer a return call, a special operations deputy contacted ski patrollers to check the location of the automated call.

“We are not in the practice of disregarding calls,” said Trina Dummer, the interim director of the Summit County 911 Center. “These calls involve a tremendous amount of resources, from dispatchers to deputies to ski patrollers. And I don’t think we’ve ever had an actual emergency event.”

The “crash detection” and “fall detection” features on the Apple iPhone 14 and watches automatically call 911 when the devices detect a sudden stop that, in concept, means the user has been involved in a car crash. The technology has been heralded for saving lives, but it’s not meshing well with skiers who can stop suddenly and often fall without the need for emergency help.

All of the automated 911 calls from skiers pouring into ski town emergency call centers this month — with a robot voice sharing latitude and longitude coordinates of a potentially injured party — were about snowy tumbles, not car wrecks. 


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