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Setting Up Your iPhone’s Emergency SOS Feature

How to setup your iPhone’s Emergency SOS Feature

Technology is always changing to meet our needs and solve problems. In 1968, the first-ever 911 call was placed, making it easier for anyone to quickly contact emergency services. In the years since, more technologies have emerged, including the possibility of texting 911 in many areas. 

Today’s newer iPhones have an Emergency SOS feature that allows you to contact emergency personnel even faster than dialing 911 –  automatically share your location with them. Some devices even allow you to share your location via satellite, which works even if you don’t have any signal or data access. 

Using Emergency SOS on an iPhone

iPhone’s standard Emergency SOS feature uses your cell service or Wi-Fi coverage to place a call to emergency services. This feature is available on all iPhones starting with iPhone 8. 

After you place an Emergency SOS call via an iPhone, your iPhone sends your location via text to your emergency contacts. If you had previously turned off location tracking, it is temporarily turned back on. Your pre-selected emergency contacts continue to get additional updates if your location changes. 

It’s a great feature that has already saved the lives of countless people who have been able to take quick action in dangerous situations!

There are 2 ways to activate the Emergency SOS feature on the iPhone. 

To use the slide option: 

  • Press and hold the iPhone’s side button and either volume button
  • The Emergency Call/Emergency SOS slider will show up, and then you can drag it to make the emergency services

To use the hold option:

  • Press and hold the iPhone’s side button and either volume button; continue to hold these buttons down
  • You will hear an alert sound and a countdown will begin
  • Continue to hold the buttons down until the countdown ends; at that point, your phone will dial 911

What if you have an older iPhone? If you are using an iPhone 7 or a previously released model, you can press the side button five times so that the Emergency Call slider appears. To make an emergency call, drag the slider to the right.

How to use emergency SOS

Emergency SOS via Satellite

The standard Emergency SOS feature uses your Wi-Fi or cell coverage to contact emergency services. Of course, this is great if you are in a location where you have strong coverage or a Wi-Fi connection, but it’s a big problem if you are in a place where you can’t get any signal. 

A woman in the Los Angeles National Forest was able to use this feature in 2022 after she and her boyfriend crashed 300 feet into a canyon. They were able to use the emergency SOS feature to summon a helicopter, even though they had no cell service. 

These are just some of the places where you might find yourself without reliable service:

  • Remote wilderness areas (backcountry hiking, mountain regions, forests)
  • Rural farmlands and wide open spaces
  • At sea (on boats away from the coastline, remote islands)
  • Deserts (vast areas with little infrastructure)
  • National parks or preserves
  • Mountain ranges
  • Underground (buildings/structures blocking signals)
  • Natural disaster area (infrastructure damaged limiting connectivity)
  • Aircraft, mid-flight (no cell towers to connect aircraft calls)

Emergencies happen in these situations all the time, and being able to connect to emergency services may mean the difference between life and death. 

Starting with the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Pro and continuing with any model that uses iOS 16.1 or later, users can contact 911 and share their location even if they don’t have coverage. This is possible because of the phone’s ability to connect to satellites. 

Who has access to Emergency SOS via Satellite? 

Apple Support specifies that you need:

  • an iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 15, or iPhone 15 Pro
  • In the US and Canada: iOS 16.1 or later
  • In France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK: iOS 16.2 or later
  • In Australia, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland: iOS 16.4

How to Set Up SOS Emergency via Satellite Before You Travel

Apple provides a demo so that you can try out the feature before you travel. 

To use the demo, you will want to be outside and in open terrain. It’s best to have a clear view of the sky, too. 

  1. Check to make sure you have Location Services turned on. If not, you will be prompted to turn it on when you launch the demo. 
  2. In your settings, scroll to “Emergency SOS” and select it.
  3. Select “Try Demo” and follow the instructions

Just like in a real emergency, you will be prompted to answer a questionnaire that identifies what is going on and walks you through the process of connecting to a satellite.

What do you need to set up in advance? 

For your SOS to work, you need to set up your Medical ID and emergency contacts before you leave. This must be done while you have cell or Wi-Fi coverage. 

To update your Medical ID, take these steps: 

  1. Open the Health App
  2. Tap your profile picture
  3. Tap “Medical ID”
  4. Tap “Edit” 
  5. Enter your medical information, including specific conditions, blood type, allergies, etc. 
  6. Tap “Done” to finish and save your changes

You can make your Medical ID information accessible by the Lock Screen on your phone. This means that in an emergency, someone who has access to your phone can quickly learn about your medical conditions. 

To add emergency contacts, take these steps: 

  1. Open the Health App
  2. Tap your profile picture
  3. Tap “Medical ID”
  4. Tap “Edit” 
  5. Scroll to your Emergency Contacts
  6. Tap “Add” to add an emergency contact
  7. Tap a contact, then add their relationships
  8. Tap “Done” to save your changes 

Now, when you use Emergency SOS by satellite, these emergency contacts will be sent texts that include your answers to the emergency questionnaire.

Iphone emergency SOS

A little preparation will go a long way to keeping you safe in an emergency! 

Emergency communication technology has come a long way since the advent of the 911 system! From location-enabled cell phone calls to emergency texts and now satellite connectivity, there are more options than ever before to reach first responders quickly when life or safety is on the line.

Apple’s introduction of Emergency SOS via satellite connectivity marks a major advancement that could save many more lives by filling crucial gaps in emergency response accessibility. However, success relies heavily on iPhone users understanding the limitations of traditional cell networks, properly setting up their devices in advance, and knowing when to utilize the satellite emergency features.

Just like everyone is encouraged to be prepared for weather disasters, health emergencies, and other crisis scenarios, it is important to anticipate emergencies and set up your phone to prepare for any situation where you may need to utilize emergency services. 

Taking a few minutes while you have cell or Wi-Fi connectivity to add medical details, add emergency contacts, and test out the Emergency SOS features could truly be a life-saving measure. When facing a dire circumstance in a remote area, you’ll have confidence knowing that emergency responders have the critical information they need, thanks to your planning!

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