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Maine police say they get dozens of 'non-emergency 911 butt dials' from this feature on iPhones

The "Emergency SOS" feature was part of a previous iOS update. There are ways to turn it off in 'Settings.'

YORK, Maine — Police in Maine are notifying the public of what dispatchers call a trend of 'frustrating' accidents: people activating a feature on their Apple iPhones that calls 911.

The 'Emergency SOS' feature will automatically call first responders if a person holds the 'lock' button and one of the 'volume' buttons for five seconds. After three seconds, the phone sounds an alarm that it will soon call 911.

The Maine Department of Public Safety Communications posted about the issue on Facebook, saying "all it takes is throwing your phone into a cup holder of various sizes and boom,  you guessed it,  an errant non emergency 9-1-1 call." 

The intention of the feature is to allow people in an unsafe situation to alert emergency services without having to physically dial 911.

The Department urged Mainers to turn off the feature by going into 'Settings,' then 'Emergency SOS,' and turning off the 'side call' function.

York Police Lt. John Lizanecz said the department gets 25 to 30 of these "non-emergency butt dials" a day. He said the trend started about a year ago, but that with more people in Maine due to tourism season, these errant calls can take away resources from true emergencies.

"We have to go through a protocol there to make sure there isn't a real emergency," said Lt. Lizanecz. 

He said if the caller doesn't answer or hangs up, dispatch will call back.

If the dispatcher does not get an answer, they have to treat it like a real emergency and send crews to the location of the call.

"It takes away from all EMS services," said Lt. Lizanecz. 

York Police is a "public safety answering point," or "PSAP," so the dispatch center receives calls from as far north as Scarborough, and even out-of-state calls from places such as Rye, New Hampshire.

Mainers admitted on Facebook that they have made this mistake.

Credit: NEWS CENTER Maine
Credit: NEWS CENTER Maine
Credit: NEWS CENTER Maine

"We want to nip it in the bud before it really turns into an issue this summer," said Lt. Lizanecz.

Posted by York Maine Police Department on Friday, June 25, 2021