Wicked bike wreck shows importance of Apple Watch hard fall detection

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fall detection
An Apple Watch can call 911 if you trip, slip, or wipe out so severely you knock yourself unconscious.
Photo: Apple

Bob Burdett was mountain biking near Spokane, then the next thing he knew he was waking up in an ambulance. He’d had a crash so severe he was knocked unconscious for a considerable amount of time. Fortunately, his Apple Watch called 911 for him.

Burdett’s son was notified by his father’s wearable of the hard fall and rushed to the location, but EMTs had already arrived and taken him to Sacred Heart Medical Center.

It’s not known if there were other people around to call 911 because none were necessary. The Apple Watch had detected the hard fall and, when the man didn’t move afterward or respond to alerts, it automatically contacted emergency services on its own.

Burdett’s story appears on Twitter where it’s rapidly going viral:

Enabling Apple Watch fall detection

Apple Watch Series 4 or Series 5 can sense if a wearer has fallen. It will then try to determine if the person is injured. There’re audible and inaudible alerts, along with an on-screen message asking if the wearer is OK.

Apple explains what happens next:

“If your Apple Watch detects that you’re moving, it waits for you to respond to the alert and won’t automatically call emergency services. If your watch detects that you have been immobile for about a minute, it will make the call automatically.”

After calling 911, the Watch will then send a text message to notify the wearer’s emergency contacts, along with the injured person’s location.

To enable fall detection, open the Apple Watch app on the iPhone associated with the wearable, then tap the My Watch tab.  Tap Emergency SOS and turn Fall Detection on (or off, if desired).

This is just one of many stories about the health advantages of Apple’s wrist-worn computer. Many of these relate to the ECG built into Series 4 and newer, but not all.