CANADA Red Deer emergency workers demand you stop stuffing your...

Red Deer emergency workers demand you stop stuffing your phone in the cup holder

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Ambulance dispatchers say they get a lot of random 911 calls because phones are in cup holders. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

For Red Deer emergency dispatcher Andrea McLean, this has become all too commonplace.

She answers the 911 call and hears a confused person on the other line wondering how he dialed the number. She deliberately asks, “Was your phone in the cup holder?” They say, “Yes,” and she begins her explanation.

On an iPhone 8 or later, an emergency SOS call can be made by holding both side buttons at the same time. A new screen appears and soon the countdown begins and an alert sounds. If no action is taken, a 911 call is initiated.

McLean says this sequence of events often happens by accident when iPhones are pressed into cup holders.

“Sometimes it’s the kids playing, sometimes someone accidentally calls – stuff like that. But in the vast majority of cases, we blame the coasters,” McLean, assistant deputy chief of the Red Deer 911 Emergency Communications Center, said in an interview on Calgary Eye Opener.

“We try to train them one at a time.”

They also launched a social media campaign to draw attention to the issue.

McLean said the center received about 15,000 calls in June, of which about 3,500 were erroneous. These calls are taking much-needed resources away from a team serving more than 453,000 people in about 70 communities, from Leduc to Airdrie and from British Columbia to the Saskatchewan border.

“If you don’t answer me … We will actually have to call you back manually,” McLean said.

“If you don’t answer the phone, that’s another problem, because if I hear anything funny or suspicious, we have to get the police involved because we’re just not sure about safety.”

An example of the emergency screen that appears when SOS mode is activated on the iPhone. (Apple)

This is not just a Red Deer Emergency Center problem.

In a statement, Magni Magnason, deputy commander of Calgary 911, said they receive 300 to 400 random 911 calls a day.

“An important factor is the emergency call feature on the iPhone,” said Magnason.

“This most often happens when the phone is in a pocket, purse or cup holder. It can also happen when an alarm goes off or someone tries to adjust the volume of the music.”

Unsubscribed mobile phone calls are the second most common type of accidental emergency call in Calgary. Typing errors also happen with some Android and earlier iPhones when certain buttons are pressed quickly.

To reduce the chance of mistakenly dialing an emergency number, you can change your phone’s settings, Magnason says. You can add an extra step to the process by requiring someone to swipe the phone screen before a call is made.

McLean says that if you want your functions to stay the same and you accidentally call emergency services, the most important thing is to stay on the line.

“Tell us you’re safe and it’ll be a lot faster for us to just talk about it.”

But her advice? Just keep your phone away from cup holders.

Why the Red Deer 9-1-1 emergency call center wants iPhone users to #simply say no to cup holders.



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