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Apple Watch calls 911 after a man’s harrowing fall off a cliff

It was like Lassie saving Timmy after he fell down the well, except in this case, Lassie was an Apple Watch and Timmy was a man from New Jersey who fell off a steep cliff.

A now-standard feature on Series 4 and 5 Apple Watches prompts the watch to call 911 in the event of an emergency. It was this feature that saved James Prudenciano’s life. Click here to learn the differences between the two series. 

Darkness and unfamiliarity with the area led Prudenciano and his date to try to slide down a cliff to safety. Instead, they ended up in more danger.

A Hard Fall is gonna come

Call it serendipity, fate or dumb luck: a few days before the hike, Prudenciano purchased a Series 4 Apple Watch. When you’re setting up the watch you are asked to enter your age. If you’re 65 or older, the Hard Fall feature is automatically enabled.

For 28-year-old Prudenciano, the Apple Watch did not automatically enable Hard Fall, but as Prudenciano fiddled with the device, he decided to enable it. Good move.


Related: What you need to know about this Apple Watch app that allowed eavesdropping


Prudenciano and his date were walking along a trail when they got lost after it became dark. They found a cliff and thought they could slide down it to safety. No such luck. After landing on a ledge, they saw not solid ground below, but a river and rocks instead. His date fell into the river and suffered a minor injury.

Prudenciano wasn’t as lucky. When he fell, he landed on rocks, fracturing his back in three places. Detecting the hard fall, Prudenciano’s Apple Watch automatically dialed 911 and sent text messages to authorities and his mother that included his GPS coordinates.

Police were able to get the hikers medical help thanks to a passing boater who helped transport the couple. Police say Prudenciano and his date fell about 30 feet from the ledge.

There’s a lesson here

If you’re under 65 and have a Series 4 or Series 5 Apple Watch, or plan to get one, remember James Prudenciano’s near-fatal hike. Activate the Hard Fall feature just to be safe.

At first, the Hard Fall feature may remind you of those old, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up commercials” and give you a chuckle. Guess who’s not going to be laughing after falling into a ravine or getting hurt in an isolated area? You.

To set up the feature, open the Apple Watch app, choose My Watch, go to Emergency Service SOS and then turn on Fall Detection.  Click here to get another 5 great Apple Watch Tips.

Do you use an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch? Get the most out of your favorite Apple tech with Kim’s weekly Apple Updates newsletter. It’s packed with news, tips and tricks, and the coolest new apps.

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