Image source: Garmin

Winter sports & smartwatches: How to prevent false emergency calls

The winter ski season has brought an influx of false emergency calls from smartwatches. They are the result of skiers taking a tumble on the slopes and the device on their wrist automatically dealing for SOS assistance.

When activated, the Apple Watch, some Garmin sports watches, and a few other brands’ smartwatches have an SOS function that contacts emergency services. It is intended to help in emergency situations, such as when the wearer is at home and has fallen or is involved in a vehicle collision. If the user falls unconscious, some watches will automatically send a message with their location to emergency contacts.

When used in the context of skiing or other sports, however, the function can result in unnecessary emergency responses. This is because minor accidents can activate the SOS feature.

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According to a number of different reports, ski resorts across the United States have received a large number of SOS calls. These have resulted in the waste of emergency services resources and time.

These types of communications typically send the GPS coordinates of the watch at a nearby ski resort. As a result, fire and ambulance services are dispatched to the scene. For no good reason.

The emergency services are now requesting that smartwatch users be aware of this issue and check their device settings before hitting the slopes.

In some resorts, users are advised to temporarily disable the fall detection feature while skiing. This will prevent unnecessary emergency responses and allow emergency services to respond to true emergencies more quickly.

Is this a good idea? We would advise caution. Perhaps yes in a busy ski resort. But in out of the way places and when backcountry skiing, we would not suggest it.


How to disable the fall detection feature

If you do decide to disable the feature, it can be done in a few simple steps. On the Apple Watch you will need to do the following:

  • On your iPhone, launch the Watch app.
  • Select the “My Watch” tab.
  • Select “Emergency SOS.”
  • Deactivate the switch next to “Fall Detection.”

You can also disable the Fall Detection feature on your Apple Watch directly:

  • On your Apple Watch, open the Settings app.
  • Select “Emergency SOS.”
  • Deactivate the switch next to “Fall Detection.”

To turn off incident detection on a Garmin watch, you will need to access the settings menu on the watch. Here are the steps:

  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to access the settings menu.
  • Scroll down and tap on “Safety and Tracking”.
  • Locate the option for “‘Incident Detection”‘” and switch it off.

It is worth noting that even if you have turned off your watch’s fall detection feature, there are usually other ways to call for help. And no, we don’t mean pulling your phone out of your pocket.

Some smartwatches allow you to summon emergency services with a long press of the side button. A few of them even have voice commands.

And when you are off the slopes, remember to turn back on the fall detection feature. It may come to your aid when you least expect it.

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