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Don't wait for an emergency! Set up emergency SOS now

Don't wait for an emergency! Set up emergency SOS now
© Ymgerman | Dreamstime
© Ymgerman | Dreamstime

Smartphones aren’t just for making calls, playing games and surfing the internet. They can also be critical safety tools in emergency situations. Apple first released its Emergency SOS feature for iPhones with an update for iOS 10, but it’s time to take a fresh look at what it does and how to use it now that iOS 11 and a host of new iPhones are out.

The way you activate Emergency SOS for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X is different from how it works on previous iPhone models. Get up to speed so you know exactly what to do in case you find yourself in a dangerous situation and need assistance.

What is Emergency SOS?

Emergency SOS is a feature that will call emergency services and notify your own personal emergency contacts when you need it. In the U.S., your iPhone will dial 911 and connect you to an operator. After that call concludes, it will then send a text message to your emergency contacts (unless you choose to cancel). It will send your current location to your contacts and also update them if your location changes. Even if you keep your iPhone's location services turned off, the phone will automatically turn it back on during Emergency SOS.

New to iOS 11? Discover the best features you will use all the time.

Activate Emergency SOS

Previous versions of the iPhone (7 and earlier) let you start SOS mode by pressing the side button five times and dragging the bright-red slider over to start the call to 911. This is different with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X.

For Apple’s latest phones, you will need to press and hold the side button along with one of the volume buttons until you see the Emergency SOS slider appear on the screen. Now, you have two options. You can manually move the slider to start the call, or you can continue to hold down the buttons. If you choose this second route, the iPhone will start a countdown and then automatically call emergency services. This is handy if you’re in a situation where you can’t afford to look down at your phone or if you need to dial 911 discreetly.

If your situation is resolved, you can open the status bar and choose “Stop sharing emergency location” to end the updates to your contacts. Otherwise, it will keep running for 24 hours.

You can also halt an emergency call if you accidentally pressed the buttons down. Just hit the Stop button and then choose “Stop Calling.”

Apple’s iOS 11 has a head-scratching security issue. Find out what it is here.

How to turn off Auto Call

If you’re worried about accidentally setting off Emergency SOS, you can always disable the Auto Call feature that starts a countdown timer and then automatically dials 911 when you hold the side and volume buttons down. To do this, open Settings, select Emergency SOS and then toggle the Auto Call slider to off. Even if it’s set to off, you can still use the SOS feature by dragging the SOS slider on the screen.

Add emergency contacts

To add emergency contacts, open the Health app and go to the Medical ID settings. Choose to edit and scroll down for emergency contacts. Here you can add your contacts, whether it is a spouse, a family member, or a trusted friend. Select “Done” in the upper right-hand corner to save your changes.

Don’t wait to set up your Emergency SOS contacts. Do it now so it’s ready to go when you need it. Hopefully, you won't ever find yourself in a situation where you have to use Emergency SOS, but it's good to know it's available if necessary.

The iPhone X is finally here, but is it worth the expense?

Get Kim Komando’s trusted opinion on the iPhone X and watch as she unboxes the new phone.

Click here to find out what Kim has to say about the latest and fanciest iPhone.

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