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Safety & security

Emergency settings to check on your iPhone now before you need them

We can’t always be in contact with our loved ones. Life just gets in the way. We worry most about people we care about who live alone. How will we know if something happens to them? Tap or click here for seven tech tips to keep them safe.

Your phone is always with you and can be a lifeline in an emergency. By activating your iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature, you’ll be able to call local emergency services and update your chosen contacts when needed.

With Apple’s latest iPhone models, you can connect with emergency services even when you don’t have a signal. Here’s how to set up and use the emergency features on your iPhone.

Sending out an SOS

What’s the first thing you do in case of an emergency? Dial 911. This is standard practice, but you can go a couple of steps further. If you share your Medical ID, your iPhone can send your medical information to emergency services when you call or text 911 or use Emergency SOS.

With Emergency SOS, you can quickly and easily call for help and alert your emergency contacts. Let’s go through each of these features.

Set up your Medical ID

Let’s say you pass out and can’t use your phone. If someone nearby calls emergency services, first responders can access your critical medical information from the lock screen without needing your passcode. They can also see who to contact in case of an emergency. 

You just need to set up your Medical ID to include the following information about you:

  • Name.
  • Age.
  • Medical conditions.
  • Medications.
  • Allergies.
  • Emergency contacts.

Here’s how to set up your Medical ID:

  • Open the Health app and tap your profile picture.
  • Tap Medical ID.
  • Tap Edit in the upper-right corner.
  • To make your Medical ID available from the Lock screen on your iPhone, turn on Show When Locked.
  • To share your Medical ID with emergency responders, turn on Share During Emergency Call. When you call or send a text to emergency services on your iPhone or Apple Watch, your Medical ID will automatically be shared with emergency services.
  • Enter your health information.
  • Tap Done.

RELATED: Here’s what adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry does

Set up emergency contacts

Emergency contacts can be set up so that if you call an emergency number, your iPhone sends those contacts a notice that you’ve called for help, shares your location with them and notifies them if your location changes.

Here’s how to add or delete emergency contacts:

  • Open the Health app and tap your profile picture.
  • Tap Medical ID.
  • Tap Edit, then scroll to Emergency Contacts.
  • Tap Add to add an emergency contact.
  • To delete an emergency contact, tap Delete next to the contact you want to delete, then tap Delete.
  • Tap Done.

How to use Emergency SOS

By default, you can use Emergency SOS by pressing the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider pops up.

To call emergency services, drag the slider or continue holding the side and volume buttons to contact emergency services automatically. Once the countdown ends, your phone will contact emergency services.

Here’s how to change your Emergency SOS settings:

  • Go to Settings > Emergency SOS. You can switch some options on or off.
  • Call with Hold: Press and hold the side and volume buttons to start a countdown to call emergency services (see above).
  • Call with 5 Presses: Rapidly press the side button five times to start a countdown to call emergency services.
  • Call After Severe Crash: If you’re in a car crash, your iPhone can automatically call emergency services. (NOTE: You need an iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro to use this feature.)

To make an emergency call when an iPhone is locked, tap Emergency on the passcode screen, dial 911, then tap the Call button.

How to send an emergency text when you don’t have a signal

Going off the beaten track can be exhilarating, but if you’re stuck in the wilderness, on a mountain, or in the middle of an ocean and need help, you could be in big trouble.

With the introduction of the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, Apple introduced built-in satellite capabilities. Thanks to this excellent feature, you can contact emergency services when you’re out of cellular or Wi-Fi range as long as you have one of the new models, of course.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • It can take up to 15 seconds to send a text message. If you’re stranded under trees or medium foliage, that time increases to over a minute. 
  • Making a phone call has similar constraints, as there will be a delay in sending voice communications and receiving audio. You might not even be able to send messages if you’re under heavy foliage or surrounded by other obstructions.
  • Emergency SOS through satellite services is free for two years after you activate your iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro.

You may want to take a test drive of this feature before you ever need to use it. Just go to Settings > Emergency SOS > Try Demo.

RELATED: Satellite tech will change phones forever

Here’s how to text emergency services via satellite:

  • First, try calling emergency services. Even if your regular cellular carrier network isn’t available, you might be able to make the call.
  • If your call doesn’t connect, you can text emergency services via satellite:
    • Tap Emergency Text via Satellite.
    • You can also go to Messages to text 911 or SOS, then tap Emergency Services.
  • Tap Report Emergency.
  • Using simple taps, answer the emergency questions to describe your situation. 
  • Choose to notify your emergency contacts that you contacted emergency services, along with your location and the nature of your emergency.
  • To connect to a satellite, follow the onscreen instructions.
  • After you’re connected, continue following the onscreen instructions to stay connected while you send your message to emergency services.

Once connected, your iPhone begins a text conversation with emergency responders by sharing vital information like your Medical ID and emergency contact information. Tap or click here for more details on the satellite feature.

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