How to use Emergency SOS on iPhone or Apple Watch.

We hope that you'll never need to use Emergency SOS, but it's always good to be prepared. Almost by definition, if you need to call the Emergency services it's going to be a stressful experience. If you’re debilitated or have been in an accident, it might be difficult to navigate the iPhone’s interface. On top of that, with everything going on surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), it's important to know how this feature could be helpful.

By Calum
16 Mar 2020 / How to do stuff!, News


Emergency SOS does three things:

  • First, it calls emergency services, using whatever number is appropriate for your location, which could be particularly helpful when you’re traveling abroad
  • After your emergency call ends, Emergency SOS sends a text message with your location to emergency contacts that you’ve set up in the Health app
  • Finally, it displays your Medical ID for first responders so they can be aware of things like medication allergies. You create your Medical ID in the Health app as well

How you use the Emergency SOS varies slightly depending on which Apple device you have.

iPhone 8 or later

Press and hold the side button and either of the Volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. Either drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services right away, or just keep holding the side and Volume buttons. If you continue holding the buttons down, a countdown begins and an alert sounds; at the end of the countdown, the iPhone automatically places the call, a feature that Apple calls Auto Call.

Emergency SOS iPhone X

iPhone 7 and earlier

Rapidly press the side button five times to bring up the Emergency SOS slider. Drag the slider to call the emergency services. (The quintuple-click can work on the new iPhones too; it’s an option in Settings > Emergency SOS).

The Apple Watch acts like the newer iPhones. Press and hold the side button to bring up the Emergency SOS slider, or keep holding the side button to start a countdown after which the Apple Watch will call emergency services automatically via Auto Call. The Apple Watch must be connected to your iPhone, be on a known Wi-Fi network and have Wi-Fi Calling enabled, or have a cellular plan.

Apple Watch emergency SOS

Plan ahead

You probably want to try this out before you might actually need to use it. And you can do so without actually placing a 999 call. On both the iPhone and the Apple Watch, there will be a red hangup button you can tap, followed by an End Call or Stop Calling button. Similarly, you can cancel notifications of your emergency contacts.

To add your own emergency contacts, the people who you’d want to be notified if you were in an accident, just follow these steps on your iPhone:

      1. Open the Health app and tap your profile picture
      2. Tap Medical ID
      3. Tap Edit and then scroll to Emergency Contacts
      4. Tap the add button to add an emergency contact
      5. Tap a contact, then add their relationship
      6. Tap Done

You can also add your medical information in the Health app, which could be really important if you have any allergies to medicines or conditions that paramedics would need to know about.

If you’re concerned about activating the Auto Call feature inadvertently, you can turn it off in Settings > Emergency SOS on the iPhone, and for the Apple Watch in the Watch app, in My Watch > General > Emergency SOS.

Also, bringing up the screen with the Emergency SOS slider automatically disables Touch ID and Face ID, you’ll need to enter your passcode to re-enable them.

We sincerely hope you never have to use these steps, but it’s good to have the knowledge and we love the simplicity of how Apple has integrated this feature into its devices.