First, let’s look at what Emergency SOS actually does:

  • It calls emergency services – automatically using the right number wherever you are, which is especially helpful when you’re travelling.
  • When your emergency call ends, Emergency SOS sends a text message with your location to any emergency contacts you’ve set up in the Health app.
  • Finally, it displays your Medical ID for first responders, so they’re aware of any information like medication allergies. (The Health app is also where you set up your Medical ID).

How you use Emergency SOS varies slightly on different devices:

iPhone 8 or later

Press and hold the side button and either of the volume buttons, until the Emergency SOS slider appears. Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services straight away. If you keep holding the buttons down, a countdown begins and an alert sounds; when the countdown ends, the phone automatically places your call to emergency services – a feature that Apple calls Auto Call.

Emergency SOS iPhone X

iPhone 7 and earlier

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

Apple Watch

Emergency SOS works on the Apple Watch works much as it does on 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 – at the end of which your watch will call emergency services via Auto Call. Your Apple Watch needs to be connected to your iPhone and a known Wi-Fi network, with Wi-Fi calling enabled, or have a mobile network plan.

Apple Watch emergency SOS

Try using Emergency SOS ahead of time

To check you know how to use Emergency SOS, why not try it out before you actually need it? You can do this without actually placing a 999 call: on both the iPhone and Apple Watch, there’s a red hang-up button you can tap, followed by an End Call or Stop Calling button. And you can also cancel any notifications sent to your emergency contacts.

How to add your emergency contacts

To add your emergency contacts – the people who you’d want to notify if you’re in an accident or seriously unwell – 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 is especially important if you have any allergies to medicines or conditions that paramedics should know about.

If you’re worried about accidentally activating the Auto Call feature, you can turn it off in Settings > Emergency SOS on your iPhone. And for the Apple Watch, you can do this in the Watch app: My Watch > General > Emergency SOS.

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

Hopefully, you’ll never have to use Emergency SOS, but we think it’s a brilliant and vitally important feature that anyone with an Apple device should know how to use.

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