How to prepare your iPhone for emergencies – configure your device to save your life


Your iPhone goes where you go — it’s the most versatile tool you have in your arsenal, keeping you connected, entertained and navigating, but did you know it can also save the life ?

Apple bundles several options on the iPhone that can come in handy in an emergency. Your iPhone can automatically alert your closest contacts (or call the local emergency helpline) when you’re in trouble and can even give first responders access to your medical history without unlocking the phone. But for these features to work, you will need to configure them. Here’s how to prepare your iPhone for emergencies.

Create a Medical ID on your iPhone

In the event of an accident, it is essential that first responders know the medical history of the patient so that they can treat them accordingly. This information, however, is not always immediately available at the site of an incident – unless you have set up a “Medical ID” on your iPhone.

With “Medical ID”, you can authorize anyone to read your essential medical information, such as your blood type, allergies and medications, directly from the lock screen without unlocking your phone. It may also include your emergency contacts and their relationship to you.

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To set up a Medical ID on your iPhone, go to Settings > Health > Medical ID and tap “Create Medical ID”. On the next page, you will have a series of text fields to add the information you want to display in your Medical ID. Type in fields that you think will be useful for first responders in an emergency, such as your household contacts and health status. If you want to enter information, but cannot find the appropriate input field, submit it under “Medical Notes”.

Finally, turn on the “Show When Locked” switch to ensure that users can access this information from your iPhone’s lock screen. Tap “Next” in the upper right corner, then tap “Done” to save.

Now, once someone fails to unlock your iPhone via Face ID and Touch ID, they can access your medical information under Emergency > Medical ID when prompted for the PIN code.

Activate SOS on your iPhone

Your iPhone can also send an SOS to the local emergency number and your emergency contacts. You don’t have to worry about menus to use it, and you can trigger it by pressing your iPhone’s lock button three times. When you do this, your phone not only alerts the emergency helpline, but even sends your location to your contacts and lets them know when it changes.

To enable SOS on your iPhone, head to Settings > Emergency SOS.

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There are two ways to send an emergency SOS from your iPhone. You can press the power key three times quickly to start an 8-second countdown; this will prompt your iPhone to automatically call emergency services. Enable this with the “Call with 3 taps” option. Alternatively, the “Call waiting” toggle lets you press and hold the power and any volume button for a few seconds to send an SOS. You can keep both on or stick with whichever works best for you.

When you trigger SOS on your iPhone, it can also make a loud warning sound to catch a passerby’s attention. You can choose to enable it with the “Countdown” toggle at the bottom of the page.

The emergency number dialed by your iPhone depends on where you live. In the United States, for example, it will call 911, but in some areas like China, you are asked to choose between police, fire or ambulance.

Share your iPhone location with friends and family

Another quick way to make sure someone is always able to watch you is to share your iPhone’s live location with your closest friends and family indefinitely. You can easily do this with the Find My app on your iPhone.

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Open Find My and in the “People” tab and tap on “Start Location Sharing”. Find the contact’s profile, tap it and select “Send” in the upper right corner. Tap “Share Indefinitely” at the next prompt, and you’re good to go.

Keep your iPhone trackable after turning it off

If you have an iPhone 11 or later with iOS 15 running, your phone may remain findable even when turned off. This can come in handy when you run out of battery in unfamiliar territory, as your loved one will still be able to see where you are.

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Go to Settings > [Your Apple ID Name at the top] > Find My > Find My iPhone. Enable all three options on this page.

Check that your iPhone is locatable when powered off by pressing and holding the power and volume down keys. You should have a note “iPhone Findable After Power Off” under the power slider.

Prepare your iPhone for emergencies with apps

Besides your iPhone’s built-in tools, you should have a few apps in your arsenal to be better prepared in case of an emergency.

American Red Cross First Aid App offers simple step-by-step instructions on what you can do in a range of incidents, such as an asthma attack, stroke and more, even without an internet connection. It’s also integrated with the 911 system so you can call emergency medical services right from the app.

Apple’s iPhones are not yet equipped with the ability to detect a car accident like Google’s Android phones. GM OnStar Guardian App fixes this hole, and it works for all kinds of vehicles. Once up and running, the app calls for help as soon as it detects a car crash. It costs $15 per month after a 3-month trial and is only available in the US and Canada at the time of writing.


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