How iPhone safety features can help you out of a jam

As you, your friends, and your loved ones go about your day, literally anything can happen — from a natural disaster or crime to a sudden illness or accident. Apple’s iPhone builds in guardrails that help you stay in touch with friends and family, get critical information, assist with emergencies, call authorities and first responders, or rush to the scene. With iPhone features and resources such as Emergency SOS, Emergency Contacts, Location Sharing, Find My, and Do Not Disturb While Driving, you can be prepared if and when help is needed.

Emergency SOS

When you make a call with Emergency SOS, your iPhone automatically contacts the local emergency number — be it 911, as in the U.S., or other emergency numbers operative in different countries. With Emergency SOS, your phone will always call emergency services properly for its current region. Here’s how to do it for both newer and older models.

Set up Auto Call

When Auto Call is on and you attempt an emergency call, your iPhone begins a countdown with an alert signal. After the countdown, your iPhone automatically calls emergency services.

  • Launch the Settings app on your iPhone.
  • Tap Emergency SOS.
  • Turn Auto Call on or off.
  • If you turn off this setting, you can still use the Emergency SOS slider to make a call.

iPhone 8 and newer

  • Press and hold the side button and one of the Volume buttons until you see the Emergency SOS slider.
  • Drag the Emergency SOS slider to the on position to call emergency services.
  • If you persist in holding down these two buttons without dragging the slider, it starts a countdown with an audible alert sound.
  • If you continue to hold down the buttons after the countdown ends, your iPhone will call emergency services.

iPhone 7 older

  • Press the side or top button (depending on your iPhone model) five times in succession to bring up the Emergency SOS slider.
  • Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services.
  • When the emergency call is over, your iPhone sends a text message to your designated emergency contacts alerting them to your current location — unless you cancel.
  • If you have Location Services disabled, this action will switch them on automatically so that if you change locations, your contacts can track you.

This feature also locks your phone automatically so that you must tap in your passcode to use it again. Touch ID and Face ID won’t work until you enter your code. This takes into account the fact that you may be in danger or somebody may take advantage of the situation to try and steal your phone. If that happens, it won’t help them because they can’t use the phone without your passcode.

Emergency Contacts

The Emergency SOS feature that notifies emergency contacts of your situation and location is only available if you already designated emergency contacts, and their information is in your Contacts app. After an emergency call, your iPhone sends a text that includes your current location to your emergency contacts, unless you cancel. It also transmits location updates to your emergency contacts if you travel somewhere else. Here’s how to designate an emergency contact — or more than one.

Add an emergency contact

  • Launch the Health app and tap your profile picture.
  • Tap Medical ID.
  • Tap Edit, then scroll to Emergency Contacts.
  • Tap the add button which goes to your Contacts app.
  • Tap a contact, then add your relationship to them.
  • Tap Done.

Remove an emergency contact

  • Launch the Health app and tap your profile picture.
  • Tap Medical ID.
  • Tap Edit and scroll to Emergency Contacts.
  • Tap the delete button next to a contact.
  • Tap Delete.
  • Tap Done.

Set up Medical ID

In addition to designating a contact, you can also set up a Medical ID to alert first responders to your medical condition so that they don’t further aggravate a pre-existing condition. To make your Medical ID available from the Lock screen on your iPhone, turn on Show When Locked. In an emergency, this gives information to people who want to help. Here’s how to set it up.

  • Launch the Health app and tap the Summary tab.
  • Tap your profile picture.
  • Under Medical Details, tap Medical ID.
  • Tap Edit in the upper-right corner.
  • Enter health information like your date of birth, allergies, and blood type.
  • Enable Emergency access by switching on Show When Locked, so when first responders tap on Emergency, they can get basic information about you and even your emergency contact number, which they can call from your phone.
  • Tap Done.

Share my location

In iOS 13 the Find My app consolidates features that had been separate in the past, such as Find my iPhone and Find My Friends. Now, these location-sharing features are part of a single app, and we concentrate only on location sharing for friends and family as part of the iPhone’s personal safety features. If you want friends and family to know where you are, turn on Share My location by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and switching on Location Services and Share My Location.

Find My

After you enable Share My Location, you can use Find My to share your location with specific people.

  • Open the Find My app and tap the People tab at the bottom.
  • Choose Start Sharing Location.
  • Type the name or phone number of the person you want to share your location with.
  • Tap Send.
  • Choose to share your location for One Hour, Until End of Day, or Share Indefinitely.
  • Tap OK.

You can even rename the locations that you frequent.

  • Open the Find My app and choose the Me tab.
  • Tap Edit Location Name.
  • Tap Home, Work, School, Gym, None.
  • Or you can Add Custom Label to create your own name for your location — type in a new name and tap Done.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

In many locations, using a cell phone behind the wheel is a violation of the law — and for good reason. There’s nothing like a cell phone call or a text to distract drivers and cause accidents. Most sensible drivers agree that they need to focus 100% on the road, but when a call or text comes in while you’re en route, it can take Herculean will power not to at least throw a glance toward your screen to find out who’s calling and let them know you’ll respond when you arrive at your location — or pull over to a safe place.

The iPhone’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature removes all temptation to check your phone because you will not receive any messages while you’re behind the wheel. With iOS 11 and later, your iPhone can sense when you might be driving and prevent notifications.

Tap Turn On While Driving, and it will turn on automatically when your iPhone connects to your car via Bluetooth or when your iPhone senses driving motion. You can change the method your iPhone uses to determine whether you’re driving, or turn the feature on manually.

Use the Control Center

  • Go to Settings > Control Center, then tap Customize Controls.
  • Tap the add button next to Do Not Disturb While Driving.
  • For iPhone X or later, swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen and tap to turn it on or off.
  • For iPhone 8 or earlier, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap to turn it on or off.

When Do Not Disturb is on, you will not see or hear calls or texts — notifications are limited to emergency alerts, timers, and alarms. Senders get an automatic reply informing them that you’re driving. If the message is important, senders have an option to type the word urgent to ensure a notification, at which point, you can choose to pull over to read the message or ask Siri to read it to you.

As with standard Do Not Disturb, you can allow calls only from your favorites or if the same person calls twice in a row. If your iPhone connects to your car via Bluetooth, calls will come through, letting you use the vehicle’s buttons, microphones, and speakers. If you use Maps, the iPhone will display lock-screen navigation and give turn-by-turn directions. Passengers must tap I’m Not Driving to turn off the feature if they want to use their phones.

Customize Do Not Disturb While Driving

To set up Do Not Disturb While Driving automatically, manually, or via Bluetooth connection or CarPlay.

  • Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb.
  • Tap Activate and choose the mode by which you want to enable the feature:
  • Automatic: iPhones use motion detection and network connections to sense whether you are driving, and turns on the feature.
  • Bluetooth: When Connected to Car Bluetooth, the feature starts when your phone connects to your vehicle’s hands-free system.
  • Manual: Use the Control Center to enable Do Not Disturb While Driving before you start your trip.
  • Carplay: Activate with Carplay enables the feature while your iPhone is connected to CarPlay.
  • Auto-Reply To: This feature lets you choose who receives an auto-reply when you have Do Not Disturb While Driving enabled. You can customize the message. If someone still needs to contact you, they can send urgent as an additional message.

Do Not Disturb While Driving isn’t available in all countries or regions.

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