The Regina Police Service in Saskatchewan, Canada, has posted an advisory and made a plea to the public to stop asking Siri on their iPhones about 9/11. iOS – and Android – users have become accustomed to posts or friends telling them to ask Siri or Google Now specific things, mostly resulting in a funny answer from their digital “personal assistant.”
Next time you see a Facebook or Twitter message telling you to “Say 9/11 to Siri, here response is hilarious,” you’ll think twice. When you ask Siri about 9/11 (and most people would say it nine eleven), you don’t get a funny response as the post indicates. Something else happens instead. That’s right, Siri dials 9-1-1 instead which connects you with a 911 operator who then answers the call. Most people hang up at this point, but it’s already too late as the call has potentially tied up valuable resources from answering a real emergency.
While you might not think this is a big deal, it is something worth bringing up with your kids as I suspect the majority of these calls are initiated by friends or peers trying to prank their friends into calling 911 – but I’m sure a few adults have fallen for it as well.
The full advisory, posted yesterday, reads:
Source: Regina Police Service
The Regina Police Service has a request for iPhone users after an unusually high number of 9-1-1 hang-up calls to the Communications Centre over the weekend. It appears this has been generated by numerous messages shared on social media about instructing “Siri” to place a phone call. (Siri is a part of Apple Inc.’s iOS which works as an intelligent personal assistant and “knowledge navigator” allowing a person to use voice commands to make calls, schedule meetings and other actions.) The messages on twitter, Facebook and other social media prompt people with a teaser like, “Say 9/11 into Siri and you’ll be amazed”, or “When you say 9/11 to Siri, her response is hilarious”.
The response isn’t hilarious. What happens next is: the iPhone dials 9-1-1, accessing a 911 Communications Officer, who answers the phone call with, “9-1-1…where is your emergency?” At that point, the iPhone user often panics and hangs up, but the consequences don’t end there. When someone dials 9-1-1 and hangs up, the Communications Officer is obligated to call the phone owner back to establish whether or not there is a bona fide emergency. Without more information, there is no way to tell if the 9-1-1 call is a prank or real. The process of re-establishing contact can involve several tries and can tie up resources that could be needed for real emergent situations. In the most serious situations, where a person misleads police and causes them to enter into an investigation, there could be a criminal charge resulting.
The Regina Police Service is asking people to be aware of the consequences of this latest fad. We are fortunate, so far, that there haven’t been real 9-1-1 emergencies where help has been delayed. Please, choose to be a good citizen and DON’T ask Siri about 9/11.
The Regina Police Service thanks the public for their assistance in this matter.