Android phone keeps calling the emergency number.

Frustrated user with Android phone accidentally dialing emergency services
  Reading time 13 minutes

When your Android phone keeps calling emergency services, it can be both alarming and disruptive. Most modern Android devices come equipped with an Emergency SOS feature designed for situations where the user needs help, allowing them to quickly contact emergency services. However, when this feature becomes a recurring inconvenience rather than a safety tool, it’s important to understand why it happens and how to prevent it. This article dives into the intricacies of why an Android phone might inadvertently dial 911 or other emergency phone numbers and provides actionable solutions for users to manage and resolve this issue effectively.

Common Causes for Emergency Calls on Android Phones

Accidental Emergency Dialing

Touchscreens have become more sensitive, and gestures or shortcuts intended to help users contact emergency services can also lead to accidental calls. Some Android phones have an SOS feature that, when triggered by a certain pattern of button presses or screen taps, will automatically place a call to emergency personnel. A simple slip of the hand or a mistaken button press – particularly on devices with large screens – can be enough to initiate this distress signal.

Additionally, certain Android devices allow emergency calls on the lock screen without needing to unlock the phone. While this is a safety measure, it can result in accidental emergency SOS activations, especially when the device is in a pocket or a bag and comes into contact with other objects.

Android smartphone screen displaying repeated emergency number calls

Software Bugs and Glitches

At times, a phone might act erratically due to software issues. Outdated system software can have unresolved bugs that lead to unexpected behavior, including unintended emergency calls. The introduction of new features with a system update, or the interaction between the operating system and third-party apps, might not always go smoothly, potentially manifesting as this accidental dialing problem.

When apps that have access to phone features malfunction, they too can cause accidental calls to emergency services. This can occur if an app misinterprets user input or malfunctions in the background without the user being aware.

Hardware Problems

While less common, hardware defects can lead to accidental emergency calls. If the power or volume buttons are damaged or stuck, they might activate the SOS feature without your intention. Phones that are designed to resist the elements and rough handling often employ such features to ensure that even in extreme situations, the user can call for aid.

Another potential hardware-related issue is the use of protective cases that might inadvertently press on buttons due to poor design or fit. Even accessories like screen protectors can interfere with the touchscreen’s sensitivity and register taps that were never made.

Emergency Contacts and Prevention: How to Avoid Unwanted Calls

Adjusting Phone Settings

To avoid accidental calls to emergency numbers, users can explore their phone’s settings to adjust the sensitivity or disable some of the features that initiate these calls. For example, Android devices may offer an option to modify the shortcuts that lead to emergency services being contacted. Disabling features like ‘Quick Call’ or ‘Auto Call’ in emergency sections can reduce instances of unintentional SOS signals.

Furthermore, managing emergency contacts is crucial. Most Android phones allow users to set up designated SOS contacts. Ensuring that this list is up-to-date and contains numbers of people you trust and who are typically available can mitigate the impact of any accidental emergency calls.

Using Secure Lock Screens

Employing a secure lock screen that requires deliberate input to unlock can dramatically decrease the likelihood of accidental emergency calls. Here are some options for lock screens that users can consider:

  1. Pattern lock
  2. PIN code
  3. Password lock
  4. Fingerprint sensor
  5. Facial recognition

Employing best practices for lock screen security, such as choosing a complex pattern or PIN, can add an additional layer of precaution, ensuring that erroneous SOS activations are less frequent. It’s also wise to regularly change these security measures to maintain optimal security and to prevent inadvertent dialing due to familiarity with the unlocking mechanism.

Close-up of Android call log with multiple emergency number calls

Immediate Remedial Measures and Software Maintenance

When Your Android Phone Unintentionally Calls Emergency Services

Despite taking all the preventive measures, if your Android phone still dials emergency services, it’s essential to react swiftly to minimize the inconvenience to both yourself and the emergency operators. If you catch the call in the act, you can usually cancel it before it connects. However, if the call does go through, stay on the line and explain to the operator that it was a mistake to ensure they don’t dispatch responders unnecessarily.

Besides actual calls, Android devices can also send SOS messages with your location to your emergency contacts. If this occurs, follow up with your contacts as soon as possible to confirm that you’re safe and that the alert was accidental.

Regular Software Updates and Vigilance

Keeping your phone up-to-date is critical for both security and functionality. Manufacturers regularly release updates that contain patches for known issues, including those that may cause accidental SOS activations or calls to emergency services. Ensure that your phone automatically checks for updates and consider manually checking for them periodically. This holds true for apps as well; app updates can also fix bugs that might lead to similar issues.

Regularly review the permissions you’ve granted to apps, particularly those that can make calls or send messages. If an app does not have a clear need for such permissions, it is prudent to reconsider whether it should have them. This can also be a measure to protect your privacy and reduce the risk of accidental SOS messages or emergency services contacts.

Touchscreen accidentally activates SOSAdjust sensitivity settings or consider a more secure phone case.
Button presses initiating emergency callDisable hardware shortcuts or get the buttons checked for defects.
Accidentally calling while phone is in pocketEnable a more complex lock screen or increase the time before the screen turns on to prevent pocket dials.
Software bug causing spontaneous callsUpdate to the latest software version and remove any problematic apps.
Accidental SOS message sentQuickly notify the designated contacts that it was a mistake.

Implementing these solutions can help users take control of their Android devices, diminish the likelihood of accidental calls to emergency services, and maintain the intended use of the emergency SOS feature for actual crises.

Advanced Solutions and Tools for Managing SOS Features on Android

Third-Party Apps and Resources

The Google Play Store offers apps designed to help users manage their emergency call settings. These apps often provide more granular control, allowing users to customize the way their emergency SOS feature functions, or even disable it entirely. Before downloading such apps, it’s important to check user reviews and app permissions to ensure the app is reputable and doesn’t compromise device security or privacy.

With these apps, users can also set up automated messages to be sent alongside SOS calls or even establish protocols for false alarms. However, users should bear in mind that while these apps can offer additional features, they are not substitutes for the native emergency features of the phone and should be used in conjunction with—not in replacement of—those features.

Custom ROMs and Developer Options

Tech-savvy users who are familiar with Android’s developer environment might explore the use of custom ROMs—alternative versions of the Android operating system that can offer different experiences and additional customization options. Custom ROMs may provide more advanced ways to manage or disable the SOS feature. Nonetheless, such modifications come with risks, including voiding the device’s warranty and potentially exposing it to security vulnerabilities. It’s critical to fully understand the implications and proceed with caution if opting to use a custom ROM.

Developer options can also be accessed on many Android devices to fine-tune system behaviors. Within these settings, users might find ways to alter the emergency call functionality, though these options are meant for developers and can have unintended consequences if not used correctly.

an Android phone with emergency call notification

Conclusion: A Balanced Approach to Managing Emergency Calls

Managing your Android phone’s tendency to make accidental calls to emergency services requires a balance of prevention, awareness, and technical savvy. From adjusting phone settings and employing secure lock screens to staying on top of software maintenance and considering third-party resources, there are numerous strategies available for users to safeguard against inadvertent emergency dialing. While the emergency SOS feature is undeniably a critical safety tool, ensuring that it’s used only when necessary protects both device owners and emergency services from unnecessary disruptions. Regular updates, careful app management, and staying informed about your device’s capabilities will go a long way in curtailing these accidental calls.

FAQs: Navigating Emergency Call Concerns on Android Devices

  1. What steps can I take to stop my Android phone from accidentally calling emergency services? To prevent your Android phone from making accidental calls to emergency services, consider the following actions:
    • Review and adjust your phone’s emergency SOS settings to make it less likely to activate accidentally.
    • Ensure your lock screen requires deliberate authentication to open and consider increasing the screen timeout setting.
    • Keep your operating system and apps up to date.
    • Investigate third-party apps that offer additional control over emergency call settings.
    • Always use a protective phone case to prevent unintentional button presses.
  2. Can I completely disable the emergency call feature on my Android phone? Disabling the emergency call feature entirely may not be possible, as it is a built-in safety measure. However, you can minimize unintended calls by adjusting the phone settings associated with the SOS feature and using secure lock screens to avoid pocket dials. If you’re considering using advanced options like third-party apps or developer settings, proceed with caution to not compromise the safety benefits of the feature.
  3. What should I do if my Android phone sends an SOS message to my emergency contacts by mistake? If your Android phone sends an SOS message to your designated emergency contacts by mistake, you should immediately follow up with a message or call to explain the error. Ensure that your contacts understand it was accidental and that you are safe. It can also be helpful to review your SOS settings to prevent future occurrences.
  4. Are there any special considerations for making Wi-Fi calls to emergency services? When making Wi-Fi calls to emergency services, it’s essential to understand that some Wi-Fi calling services might not support calls to emergency services or might not provide your location information accurately. Always check with your carrier about the specifics of Wi-Fi calling and how it interacts with emergency services. If possible, use a regular cellular connection for emergency calls to ensure the quickest response.
  5. Can accidental emergency calls lead to legal consequences? Accidental emergency calls are a common occurrence, and operators are trained to handle them. However, repeatedly making false emergency calls, even accidentally, can potentially lead to a warning or fines in some jurisdictions. It is essential to take reasonable precautions to avoid unintentional calls to emergency services and to communicate clearly if an accidental call is made.