The Emergency SOS feature on Android phones is causing a spike in calls being accidentally made to 999 in the UK, police forces across the UK have warned.
For those unaware, Google rolled out the Emergency SOS feature with Android 12 in 2021, which was intended to make it easier for users to contact police or other emergency services in times of crisis without the need to dial the number.
All you need to do is press the power button five times or more in rapid succession to trigger the feature, which will automatically call the emergency services, share your location and send a message to your pre-specified emergency contacts.
However, of late, this potentially life-saving feature is being accidentally activated on some Android phones, causing a lot of problems for emergency services.
Apparently, the latest software update on Android smartphones has added a new SOS emergency function for devices to call 999, which gets invoked by tapping the side button five times or more. This has caused a surge in false Emergency SOS calls coming from Android devices.
“Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes. There’s a few reasons for this, but one we think is having a significant impact is an update to Android smartphone,” the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) tweeted.
“These ‘silent calls’ as they are named, are directed to police control rooms and the result has been a significant increase in silent calls.”
For instance, Police Scotland has advised the public not to hang up if they have accidentally called 999. They have requested the public to stay on the line and let them know that they are safe.
“Calls to 999 where the operator cannot hear anyone on the line (silent calls) are never just ignored,” Police Scotland tweeted.
“If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, please follow the instruction of our service advisers who are specially trained to help in these situations. If a crime is in progress or if there is an immediate risk to person or property, always dial 999.”
BT is reporting a significant increase in accidental calls to 999 following an Android update that triggers an SOS when a button on the side of your phone is pressed 5 times.
— Police Scotland (@PoliceScotland) June 21, 2023
Police Scotland is also encouraging Android phone users to check their emergency settings to turn off the functionality added in the latest update.
To turn off the Emergency SOS feature, you need to go to Settings on your Android phone, then Safety & Emergency > Emergency SOS and slide the button which says ‘Emergency SOS’ to switch the functionality off. If your Settings has a search feature, simply search for Emergency SOS.
According to the BBC reports, the so-called “silent calls” saw a surge after the final version of Android 13 was released to Android device users last August.
A Google spokesman told the BBC that it was up to Android manufacturers who choose to offer Emergency SOS on their devices to determine how the feature worked on their phones.
“To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources,” a Google spokesman said.
“We anticipate device manufacturers will roll out updates to their users that address this issue shortly. Users that continue to experience this issue should switch Emergency SOS off for the next couple of days.”