How to Use Emergency SOS on iPhone

Mte Hero Iphone Satellite Emergency Sos

The next time you need help and happen to have your iPhone on hand, you can quickly access emergency services with a feature called Emergency SOS. Instead of frantically thumbing through the Phone app to access the keypad, you can use the side or top button on your iPhone to promptly contact emergency services. This tutorial includes everything you need to know to configure and use Emergency SOS on your iPhone.

What Is Emergency SOS?

The Emergency SOS feature allows you to swiftly call the local emergency number in your area and instantly notify your emergency contacts of your whereabouts via location services. You can even set up a digital Medical ID on your iPhone to help first responders access critical information about your health from your Lock Screen.

Tip: don’t have an iPhone? Don’t worry! You can set up and configure your Medical ID on Android too.

Note that if you are using Emergency SOS in a country or region outside of the United States, you may need to configure the feature to contact a specific service. For example, in China mainland, you will need to choose between ambulance, fire, or police.

Emergency SOS Software Requirements

iOS 11 or Later

Contrary to common belief, Emergency SOS does not require the latest version of iOS. To use Emergency SOS, you will need to be running iOS 11 or later on your iPhone.

Note: on earlier versions of iOS, you can tap the button labeled “Emergency” from the passcode screen to dial emergency services without needing to unlock your iPhone.

iOS 16.1 or Later

If you happen to be running iOS 16.1 or later on any iPhone 14 model, you can access emergency services even when cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is not available. Emergency SOS via satellite is currently available for iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro customers in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Iphone Sos Satellite
Image source: Apple

Tip: if you have cellular service but are still having difficulty attempting to make phone calls, send text messages, or access the Internet, learn how to fix cellular data not working on your iPhone and iPad.

How to Call Emergency Services on iPhone 8 or Later

This method for calling emergency services works for iPhone SE (2nd generation and later), all iPhone 8 models, and all models of iPhone equipped with Face ID.

  1. Press and hold the side button and either one of the volume buttons (+/-) at the same time.
Iphone 8 Later Sos
  1. Continue holding the two buttons until an SOS slider appears on the screen. If you continue holding, a five-second countdown will start before your iPhone calls emergency services. Your iPhone will also emit a loud alarm noise.
Iphone Sos Countdown
  1. If you need help as soon as possible, you can bypass the countdown and dial emergency services right away by simply dragging the Emergency SOS slider.
Iphone Sos Slide
  1. If you happen to trigger Emergency SOS by accident, you can tap the “Cancel” button from the countdown slider screen or the “End Call” button to hang up if you already dialed.
Iphone Sos Cancel

Tip: to access Emergency SOS in India, you will need to triple-click the side button instead of using the above workflow.

How to Call Emergency Services on iPhone 7 or Earlier

Accessing Emergency SOS on earlier models of iPhone is a bit different – but thankfully just as straightforward. Follow the steps below:

  1. On iPhone 6 and later, start by rapidly pressing the side button five times to activate the Emergency Call slider. If you own an iPhone 5s or earlier, you will need to press the top button five times to activate the slider.
Iphone Sos Top Side Button
  1. Drag the Emergency Call slider to the right to dial emergency services.
Iphone Sos Slide 1

How to Try the Emergency SOS via Satellite Demo on iPhone 14

If you happen to own one of the latest iPhone models (iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro), you may be able to text emergency services using satellite connectivity when out of range of Wi-Fi or cellular coverage.

This feature will automatically activate if you attempt to dial emergency services without a connection. Below, learn how you can test drive Emergency SOS via Satellite, allowing you to stay prepared if there is ever a real emergency.

Note: the following workflow is purely a demonstration meant to educate iPhone users on how to activate the satellite features on the new iPhone models. Using this demo will not actually call emergency services.

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro.
Iphone Settings
  1. Tap on “Emergency SOS” from the menu.
Iphone Emergency Sos
  1. Scroll down until you see the “EMERGENCY SOS VIA SATELLITE” header, then tap the “Try Demo” button.
Iphone Sos Demo Button
  1. An app called “Connection Assistant” will open. Tap the “Next” button twice to continue.
Iphone Sos Connection Assistant
  1. Tap the “Test Satellite Connection” button. You will be prompted to temporarily disable Cellular connectivity to test the service. Agree to continue.
Iphone Sos Test Satellite Connection
  1. Follow the onscreen prompts to connect to an overhead satellite and conduct a test conversation with emergency services.
Iphone Sos Test Demo Convo

Good to Know: happen to own an iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro? You can do even more with your iPhone by learning how to use the Dynamic Island.

How to Enable Emergency Contacts

You can use the Health app on your iPhone to specify emergency contacts. With your permission, you can allow close friends and family members to access your location after emergency services are contacted. If you use Emergency SOS via Satellite, you can also allow emergency contacts to access your emergency questionnaire and a transcript of your conversation with emergency services.

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone.
Iphone Health App
  1. Tap on your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
Iphone Health Profile
  1. Select “Medical ID” from the menu.
Iphone Health Medical Id
  1. Tap the blue “Edit” button.
Iphone Medical Id Edit
  1. Select the green add button that reads “add emergency contact” from the list.
Iphone Add Emergency Contact
  1. Tap on a contact to select them, then specify the relationship.
Add Emergency Contact
  1. Tap the “Done” button to save your changes.
Iphone Add Emergency Contact Done 1

Note: if you accidentally send a message to the wrong person or discover a typo, discover how to edit and unsend messages on your iPhone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any regional limitations for Emergency SOS via satellite?

Yes. According to Apple, establishing a satellite connection may not work in places above 62° latitude, such as in northern parts of Canada and Alaska. For international travelers who are visiting countries or regions where Emergency SOS via satellite is available, users can access the feature as long as they did not purchase their iPhone in China mainland, Hong Kong, or Macao.

Can I change the Emergency SOS shortcut on newer iPhone models?

Certainly! On iPhone 8 and later, you can switch from the default “Call with Hold” workflow for the side button to the “Call with 5 Presses” shortcut. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and navigate to “Emergency SOS -> Call with Hold” or “Call with 5 Presses.”

Can I use Emergency SOS on my Apple Watch?

Yes! To contact emergency services on your Apple Watch, press and hold the side button below the Digital Crown, then drag the emergency call slider. If you are in an emergency situation where you cannot access the onscreen slider, simply keep holding the side button and your Apple Watch will perform a countdown before dialing emergency services. If you plan on venturing off the grid, it is always a good idea to look into how to maximize your Apple Watch battery in case you need to contact emergency services.

Image credit: Unsplash and Apple. All screenshots taken by Brahm Shank.

Brahm Shank
Brahm Shank

Self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur and tech enthusiast Brahm Shank is captivated by the impact of consumer tech: “It’s profoundly moving when people discover that the phone in their pocket or the tiny computer on their wrist has the power to enrich their lives in ways they never imagined.” Apple, Inc. and its unique position at the intersection of technology and the creative arts, resonates deeply with Brahm and his passion for helping people unleash their potential using technology. Over the years, Brahm has held various podcasts - including famed technologist David Pogue of The New York Times on topics such as Big Tech and digital wellness.

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