How to use the Emergency SOS iPhone safety feature - and alternatives for other phones

An emergency iPhone feature that could save lives has gone viral.

Women began sharing the SOS function via social media, which allows you to quickly alert the emergency services, following the disappearance of Sarah Everard in south London.

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The useful feature for iPhone users has existed for years in different forms, but it was unknown by many until influencer @theindiaedit posted the tip to her story on Thursday 11 March.

So, what is the emergency feature, why could it keep you safe - and how do you set it up?

How does Emergency SOS iPhone work?

The Emergency SOS feature on iPhones lets you notify the police if you are in danger and need urgent help.

It shares your real-time location with emergency services, as well as letting your designated contacts know where you are.

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A text message including your location is sent if the function is activated, and it continues to send updates of your whereabouts.

This can all be done without you having to type out a message during an emergency.

The feature could potentially save lives by allowing people to discreetly call for help, without having to unlock their phone.

Sharing the function to Twitter, one user wrote: “Chatting with girlfriends about being afraid to walk home at night in London after the disappearance of Sarah Everard.

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“One pointed out that it’s important to set up the emergency SOS feature and add emergency contacts if you have an iPhone. Sharing in case it’s useful for anyone."

How do you set it up?

It’s simple to activate the function on an iPhone.

To discreetly call emergency services on an iPhone 8 or later:

  • Press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons until the “Emergency SOS” slider appears
  • Drag the slider to call emergency services. If you continue to hold down the side button and volume button, instead of dragging the slider, a countdown will start and an alert will sound. If you hold down the buttons until the countdown has finished, your phone will automatically call the emergency services.

On an iPhone 7 or earlier:

  • Rapidly press the side (or top) button five times. The Emergency SOS slider will appear
  • Drag the slider to call emergency services.

By searching “Emergency SOS” on your phone, you can adjust your settings, including removing the countdown sound and the option to automatically call 999.

On all iPhones, after the call has finished your emergency contacts will be sent a text message including your current location - even if your location services are switched off.

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If your location changes, your contacts will get an update and you will also receive a notification about 10 minutes later.

Your location will continue to be shared, but you’ll get a prompt to stop sharing every four hours for 24 hours.

And if you start the countdown by accident, you can easily cancel it.

On an iPhone 8 or later, release the side button and the volume button. On an iPhone 7 or earlier, press the Stop button, then tap Stop Calling.

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How do I add emergency contacts?

If you need to add emergency contacts to your phone, you can do it using the Health app, which is pre-loaded onto your device when you buy it.

These contacts will automatically receive your location information during an emergency after you make an SOS call.

To set this up:

  • Open the Health app and tap your profile picture
  • Tap Medical ID
  • Tap Edit and then scroll to Emergency Contacts
  • Tap the add button to add an emergency contact
  • Tap a contact, then add their relationship
  • Tap Done to save your changes.

Is there an SOS feature for Android?

Android users should also have the option of an emergency SOS function.


If you have a Samsung phone, this should be under Advanced Features in Settings.

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By tapping SOS Messages, you will be able to turn the emergency text function on.

Your phone will ask you to add your emergency contacts, and whether you would like to attach photos and audio clips to the text when it is sent out.

Once this is set up, when you press the lock button three times an SOS message will be sent out to these chosen contacts, with your location attached.

Samsung phones also have an Emergency Mode, which keeps your phone running even when you have low battery, and provides easier access to emergency options.

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You are able to turn this on by holding down the power button and then tapping Emergency Mode.


Meanwhile, on a Huawei phone, you can make an emergency call by tapping Emergency on the lock screen.

Your phone will automatically obtain your location and display it on the screen.

You can also tap Emergency Information and select an emergency contact to call.

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To set up your emergency contacts, go to Security then Emergency SOS in Settings and click on the SOS message option to fill out the information.

The power button can then be pressed five times in an emergency and your phone will send a message with your location to your emergency contacts.

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