Android’s Emergency SOS Feature Is Bad News for Emergency Services

Android’s Emergency SOS Feature Is Bad News for Emergency Services

Person answering the phone in an emergency call center

We’ve all pocket-dialed someone at one time or another, but a safety feature on Android devices makes it easier than ever to call 911 by mistake. In fact, this has become such a serious problem that emergency services across the globe have issued alerts around the Emergency SOS feature.

Google released Emergency SOS with the update to Android 12, billing it as a safety feature that makes it easier to get help when you need it. All you need to do is press the power button five or more times to trigger a five-second timer, after which Android places a call to your local emergency services.

Of course, this could be a lifesaving smartphone feature for people in emergency situations, when it’s easier to mash the power button than open the Phone app. But it’s also led to a record spike in accidental calls to emergency services worldwide as people keep triggering the feature without realizing. Not only does this waste the time of emergency personnel, but it clogs up the phone lines and endangers the lives of those actually in need.

According to the BBC, one UK police force estimated that each accidental call takes 20 minutes to resolve. The same force said it received 169 silent calls in a single day, which it partly attributed to Android’s emergency feature. And this issue isn’t limited to UK police forces.

Earlier this year, Mishaal Rahman reported that Ontario police had received a surge in accidental calls, which they credit to Android’s Emergency SOS feature. There are also similar reports coming from Canada and mainland Europe. It’s likely the feature is impacting emergency services worldwide.

Google lays the blame at the feet of smartphone manufacturers, saying “We anticipate device manufacturers will roll out updates to their users that address this issue shortly.” But until then, you may want to manually disable Emergency SOS. To do this, open the Settings on your phone and go to Safety & emergency > Emergency SOS to switch off the relevant toggle.

Source: BBC via Mishaal Rahman

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