Apple Watch saves man after fall from cliff breaks his back

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fall detection
Apple Watch fall detection can help if you slip in the bathroom, or if you fall down a cliff while hiking
Photo: Apple

A New Jersey hiker went off trail, fell down a cliff, and fractured his back. Fortunately, his Apple Watch called 911 for him.

He says his wearable’s hard-fall detection helped save his life.

James Prudenciano and Paige Paruso got lost while hiking, and at sunset tried to slide down a cliff to the shore of the Navesink River. But the cliff was much steeper than they thought.”I looked down and I noticed it was a straight drop to rocks and water,” Prudenciano told News 12 New Jersey.

Prudenciano fell and fractured his back in three places. His Apple Watch contacted 911 after it detected the hard fall.

He and Paruso got on a passing boat and were taken to where they could meet emergency services.

Here’s video from a local news report:

Their story is similar to a recent one in which a mountain biker’s Apple Watch called 911 after he experienced a severe crash.

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 are 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).