What the Tech? How to call 911 on an iPhone, even without cell service
By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter
An iPhone feature introduced last fall has proven to not only have the ability to save lives but has actually helped rescue people who need help. It’s called SOS by satellite and is available
right now only on the iPhone 14 running iOS 16.1 or later.
There are several ways to contact 911 from a smartphone such as tapping a button for “Emergency” on a locked phone, or repeatedly pressing the side buttons. But those only work if
you are in the range of a cellular tower or on WiFi. SOS by satellite is for when there are no cell towers around or they are all down.
Here’s how to set it up ahead of time:
You’ll see it at the bottom of the page in the settings for Emergency SOS. You won’t have to turn it on but you should take a few important steps which I’ll get to in a minute.
If you ever try to call 9-1-1 and the call doesn’t go through, the iPhone 14 will start a satellite connection to contact emergency services.
Apple has a demo on that page that you can try. Make sure you are in a clear view of the sky. Since it is connecting to satellite hundreds of miles away, the phone will need to be in the open
and not under any trees.
You will be asked to give the phone’s compass permission to see your exact location. If you don’t have the compass app on your phone you should download Apple’s version in the app
store. Go into settings for location services, find “compass” and give it permission for your location when trying to share.
The phone will search the skies for a satellite and make the connection to a 9-1-1 call center.
You’ll receive text messages asking for what happened, and an approximate location. If someone is injured text messages will offer help on how to treat them until help arrives.
In addition to sending location information and details to first responders, Apple’s emergency service automatically sends text messages to your emergency contacts, notifying them you
have called for help. If you share your location with them in Apple’s Find My app, they’ll also receive that information.
This only works if you’ve set up emergency contacts. To do that, go into the health app, choose settings, and medical ID. Add emergency contacts and their phone numbers. While you’re at it,
enter any medical conditions and medications. This helps responders quickly gather essential information if they’re unable to respond.
If one of your emergency contacts does not have an iPhone they’ll receive information you’ve called for help via a text message.
This only works on iPhone 14 and future iPhones, and iOS 16 and future updates. If you haven’t already done it set up your emergency contacts in settings. That way if something happens to
you and you need help, you can notify your family and friends with just a tap on the screen.
Note if you try the demo it may take between 15 seconds and a minute for the messages to go through since you’re communicating with a satellite 500 or so miles away from Earth.