iPhone Emergency Calls: How to Use Apple SOS

Emergency SOS on iPhone
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The iPhone's Emergency SOS feature makes it easy to get help right away. It lets you make calls to emergency services, and notifies your designated emergency contacts both of your situation and your location using ​the iPhone's GPS.

What Is iPhone Emergency SOS?

iPhone emergency SOS

Emergency SOS is built into iOS 11 and higher. Its features include:

  • Placing a call to local emergency services based you moving a slider or pressing buttons.
  • Playing an alarm to let you know that the call will be made.
  • Notifying designated emergency contacts of your location (or at least your phone's location).
  • Updating emergency contacts if your phone moves to a new location.
  • Providing the same features on the Apple Watch.

Because Emergency SOS requires iOS 11 to work, it's only available on phones that can run that OS. That's the iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, and up. You can find all of the Emergency SOS features in the Settings app (Settings -> Emergency SOS).

How to Make an Emergency SOS Call

making emergency sos call on iphone

Calling for help with Emergency SOS is easy, but how you do it depends on the model iPhone you have.

iPhone 8, iPhone X, and Newer

  • You have two options on these models: either click the Side button five times in rapid succession, or hold down the Side button and one Volume button at the same time until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
    • Clicking the button five times fast triggers the call to emergency services right away.
    • If you move the Emergency SOS slider, the call begins right away.
  • If you keep holding the Side and Volume buttons, a countdown to the call begins and an alert sounds. Keep holding the buttons until the end of the countdown and the call to emergency services starts.

iPhone 7 and Earlier 

  • On these models, the only way to trigger Emergency SOS is to click the Side (aka the on/off/sleep/wake) button five times fast. ​
  • The Emergency SOS slider then appears on the screen.
  • Drag the slider to call emergency services.

After your call with emergency services ends, your emergency contact(s) get a text message. The text message lets them know your current location (as determined by your phone's GPS; even if Location Services are turned off, they are temporarily enabled to supply this information). 

If your location changes, another text is sent to your contacts with the new information. You can turn off these notifications by tapping the status bar at the top of the screen and then tapping Stop Sharing Emergency Location.

How to Cancel an Emergency SOS Call

cancel an emergency SOS call

Ending an Emergency SOS call—either because the emergency is over or because the call was an accident—is super simple:

  1. Tap the Stop button.
  2. In the menu that pops up from the bottom of the screen, tap Stop Calling (or Cancel if you want to continue the call).​​
  3. If you have set up emergency contacts, you'll also have to decide whether you want to cancel notifying them.​

How to Disable iPhone Emergency SOS Auto-Calls

disable auto call for iPhone emergency SOS

By default, triggering an Emergency SOS call using the side button or by continuing to hold down the two-button combination immediately places a call to ​Emergency services and notifies your emergency contacts. But if think there's a high likelihood that you'll accidentally trigger Emergency SOS, you can disable that feature and stop mistaken 911 calls. Here's how:

  1. Tap Settings. ​
  2. Tap ​Emergency SOS.
  3. Move the Auto Call slider to off/white. 

How to Disable the Emergency SOS Countdown Sound

disable countdown sound for iPhone emergency SOS

One of the hallmarks of an emergency is often a loud noise to draw your attention to the situation. That's the case with the iPhone's Emergency SOS. When an emergency call is triggered, a very loud siren plays during the countdown to the call so you can know the call is imminent. If you'd rather not hear that sound, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Emergency SOS.
  3. Move the Countdown Sound slider to off/white. 

How to Add Emergency Contacts

add emergency contacts to iPhone

Emergency SOS's ability to automatically notify the most important people in your life of an emergency is very valuable. But you need to have added some contacts to the Health app that comes pre-loaded with the iOS in order for it to work. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Emergency SOS.
  3. Tap Set up Emergency Contacts in Health.
  4. Set up a Medical ID if you haven't already done so.
  5. Tap add emergency contact.
  6. Select a contact from your address book by browsing or searching (you can only use people who are already in there, so you may want to add contacts to your address book before doing this step).
  7. Select the contact's relationship to you from the list.
  8. Tap Done to save.

How to Use Emergency SOS on the Apple Watch

emergency SOS on Apple Watch

Even if you can't reach your iPhone, you can make an Emergency SOS call on your Apple Watch. On the original and Series 2 Apple Watch models, your iPhone needs to be nearby for the Watch to connect to it, or the Watch needs to be connected to Wi-Fi and have Wi-Fi Calling enabled. If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch with an active cellular data plan, you can call right from the Watch. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Hold down the side button (not the dial/Digital Crown) on the watch until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
  2. Slide the Emergency SOS button to the right or keep holding the side button.
  3. The countdown begins and an alarm sounds. You can cancel the call by tapping the end call button (or, on some models, firmly pressing the screen and then tapping End Call) or continue to place the call. 
  4. When your call with emergency services ends, your emergency contact(s) get a text message with your location.

Just like on the iPhone, you also have the option of just pressing the Side button and not touching the screen. This makes Emergency SOS calls even easier to place. To enable that option:

  1. On your iPhone, launch the Apple Watch app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Emergency SOS.
  4. Move the Hold to Auto Call slider to on/green.