People with Android smartphones have been issued with an important warning after an update sparked accidental “silent” 999 call fears.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said that the number of calls to emergency services across the UK has soared to a record high and that an update on a number of Android devices had been plaguing control rooms.
Silent calls, which are when the operator cannot hear anyone on the line, result in call handlers still spending “valuable time” trying to ring back and check whether the caller is in need of genuine help.
The Android update has introduced an SOS emergency function for devices to call 999 through the power button being pressed five times.
Police chiefs have said they think this is partly to blame for record numbers of emergency calls, many of which could have been made accidentally.
The Met Police told Express.co.uk that the force has seen a “huge increase” in abandoned calls and “inappropriate use” of the service recently, outlining that technology, such as cars and smartwatches, as well as updated Android devices, have also been a factor.
People with Android phones have now been urged to check their emergency settings and are encouraged to turn off the function added in the update.
For those who may have made a mistaken silent 999 call, police chiefs are asking that people stay on the line and let the operator know it was an accident instead of hanging up.
A spokesperson for the NPCC said: “Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record-high 999 call volumes. There are a few reasons for this but one we think is having a significant impact is an update to Android smartphones.
“The update added a new SOS emergency function for devices to call 999 through the power button being pressed five times or more. These ‘silent calls’ as they are named, are directed to police control rooms and the result has been a significant increase in silent calls.
“Calls to 999 where the operator cannot hear anyone on the line are never just ignored. Call handlers will then need to spend valuable time trying to call you back to check whether you need help.
“If you do accidentally dial 999, please don’t hang up. If possible, please stay on the line and let the operator know it was an accident and that you don’t need any assistance.”
Android users were urged to navigate their settings, before going to the “Safety and Emergency” option and sliding the button which says “Emergency SOS” to switch the function off.
Earlier this month, the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) also warned that it had been alerted by members to a “surge in automatic false calls” that had originated from Android devices.
They said: “In some cases, false calls may originate from a handset without the handset owner realising or being aware that their mobile phone is making an emergency call.”
Chief Superintendent Dan Ivey, responsible for Met Command and Control, said: “We have seen a huge increase in abandoned calls and inappropriate use of the service. If we are going to get to the people in the queue who need us, we need to reduce the calls from those who don’t. We need the public to work with us.
“The introduction of tech is a factor, including cars and watches with tech that call 999. There are Android devices that automatically call 999 if you press a side button a number of times.
“You can really help us out by going to your device settings and sliding the SOS button to the off position. And if you do pocket-dial 999 and see a call incoming, please answer it because it is probably someone from a control room seeing if you are okay.”
Google has been approached for comment.