Apple tech helps local dispatchers deal with ski accidents

In 2020, Apple introduced a new feature called fall detection in its Apple Watch products. The feature uses wrist trajectory and impact velocity to send an alert to the user in the event of a severe fall.

The person wearing the watch then has about 60 seconds to dismiss the alarm, or it will automatically contact emergency services with location coordinates.

Suzie Butterfield, supervisor of the Summit County dispatch center, said the center receives such alerts from skiers and boarders every day.

“It depends on the time of year,” Butterfield said. “Since the start of the ski season the past week or two, we’ve probably had three to five skiers a day. But, during the busy ski season, we’ve probably had 20 to 25 a day.”

She said most people don’t realize they’ve called 911, and most of the time they’re not major incidents.

In severe cases, however, the technology allows Butterfield to connect with Ski Patrol to assist the injured party.

Apple dropped a new car crash detection feature in September’s iPhone 14. It uses the phone’s accelerometer, GPS and microphone — in the event of a severe collision, the phone will automatically contact 911 unless the user dismisses the alert.

Additionally, the new iPhones include an Emergency SOS system that lets people call for help when they’re out of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage.

Similar to the fall detection program, Butterfield said she expects the new feature to benefit dispatch centers.

“We do live in one area — Mirror Lake Highway in Uintas, search there — and their ability to use a satellite phone would be huge because they would be able to try to communicate with us.”

She said only one incident on the hill was mistaken for a car accident.

For those without an iPhone, Butterfield recommends downloading the Life 360 ​​app, which also has crash detection.

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