When Dennis “Nick” Nikolai, 81, of Chaska, fell in his driveway, he wasn’t near a phone. But then his Apple Watch asked if he needed help.
CHASKA, Minn. — At 81, Dennis “Nick” Nikolai bought his first smartwatch.
“I’m still trying to keep up,” Nikolai said, laughing.
Three weeks after purchase, Nikolai credits the device for the quick 911 response he received after falling in his driveway in Chaska.
“I just can’t speak highly enough about it,” he said.
On Saturday, October 22, Nikolai decided that he wanted to take advantage of the good weather and change the oil in his snowblower, a task normally performed by one of his family members.
“I just want to help… I’m 81 years old, the body, but the brain says 25,” said Nikolai, who uses a cane to walk.
As Nikolai sat in a chair in the driveway while working on his snowblower, he tried to back up.
“That was a mistake. I backed up, okay. Boom. I went over it. I hit my head on the bumper and my shoulder, I don’t know what I hit there,” he recalled.
Nikolai couldn’t get up and his phone wasn’t close. That’s when his Apple Watch turned off.
“It said, ‘We detected a fall. Do you need help?’ I said, ‘Yes,'” Nikolai said.
Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 4 or later can detect a hard fall and connect the user to emergency services, if necessary. There are other smart watches that are also capable of detecting falls.
According to Apple, if the watch detects a hard fall, it sounds an alarm and displays an alert. The user can choose to contact the emergency services or dismiss the alert.
Nikolai’s watch connected him to the Carver County 911 dispatch center.
“Immediately I heard that an Apple Watch had activated, the shake, and then it started giving me latitude and longitude information,” said Linda Mullenbach, a 911 operator with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.
Mullenbach then connected with Nikolai.
“I don’t want an ambulance. Send the cop here to get my big ass out of the driveway,” Nikolai said, laughing.
Chaska Police Officer Hunter Panning was nearby and, within about a minute, arrived and helped Nikolai to his feet. Nikolai said he appreciates the officer who helped him and the technology on his wrist. He originally bought the watch as a way to monitor his heart rate.
Without the clock and without a phone nearby, Nikolai said, “I would have been lying there… I would have been taking a good nap, that’s for sure.”
According to Apple, if the watch detects that the user is moving, it waits for the person to respond to the alert and will not automatically call emergency services. But if the watch detects that the person has been motionless for about a minute, it will call 911.
“So latitude, longitude would be a value for us so we can locate them and provide assistance,” said Deputy Chief Patrick Barry of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.
Last week, an Illinois doctor was working outside his home when he fell into the basement manhole. After three to five minutes, depending nbc chicago, he was able to get out of the well himself, but when he did, a police officer was standing in his yard. His watch had detected the fall and he called 911 when he didn’t respond.
“Putting these phones and these watches where people do these activities has really become a great security feature,” said Tim Nyberg, owner of The MacGuys+.
Nyberg said there are still issues with the technology that sometimes trigger false alerts.
“What if you leave your phone on top of your car and you drive away, and then the phone falls on the road and you’re going to make this 911 phone call only for first responders to find your phone on the side of it?” way,” Nyberg said.
Those over the age of 18 can become fall detection on or off although the function is activated automatically for those over 55 years of age. There is also an option to have it only during workouts.
Both the new iPhone 14 and the Apple Watch have a feature designed to detect serious car accidents. There have been reports that it was activated when users rode roller coasters. Experts suggest switching to airplane mode before you get on a trip.
“There could be a lot of false positives with this, but compared to the number of people whose lives were saved, I think it outweighs the negative,” Nyberg said.
“You never know when you’re going to need emergency services,” said Kevin Wright, public information officer for the Chaska Police Department. “You never expect to have to call them. But being in an area where you may not have access to a phone, a landline, or your cell phone is off the counter… having that ability to have technology help you when you’re in danger or in an area where you can’t call for help, it helps us deliver good customer service and then also get the best possible outcome.”
Nikolai agrees. Although he is bruised, he said: “I am so thankful and blessed that everything turned out well.”
While the watch was able to connect Nikolai to 911, Barry stressed that there is a shortage of 911 dispatchers statewide, including in Carver County. You can find job offers, here.
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