Lesser-known iPhone features can place 9-1-1 calls discreetly - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Lesser-known iPhone features can place 9-1-1 calls discreetly

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If you're out and about this holiday weekend and find yourself in need of emergency services, a little-known feature on your iPhone could help.

No, it's not an internet rumor, the iPhone does have several safety features that can contact emergency services on your behalf, though local 911 operators advise that it's still better to call and give your location yourself whenever possible.

Before we get into the details, here are the options:

  • Press your phone's lock/power button five times (for any iPhone generation).
    • This brings up a slider that, when used, will call 911 with your phone's location data.
    • A countdown begins before your call is placed.
    • You can configure an alert tone to sound through Settings.
  • Press and hold the lock/power button AND either volume button (on iPhone X, 8, 8+).
    • This brings up a slider that, when used, will call 911 with your phone's location data.
    • If you keep holding, the countdown will begin automatically.
    • You can configure an alert tone to sound through Settings.
  • Tell Siri to call for you (on any iPhone)
    • Activate Siri, then tell the virtual assistant to call for "help," or "emergency services" or "911."
    • You can also tell Siri to call emergency codes from countries outside the U.S. Any of these codes will automatically reroute you to your local emergency services center. For example: "108" or "112."
    • This will begin the same three-second countdown and automatic call.
  • Use the "Emergency" option from your phone's lock screen
    • Go to enter your passcode, but don't enter it.
    • You'll see an "Emergency" option in the bottom left corner.
    • Tap "Emergency" and you'll have the option to place an emergency call (even if the phone is locked).
    • You can enable options for this menu from the Health app on your iPhone.

Before you ask, yes, Android phones have similar options that vary by device...check your Settings for more info.

These features are certainly helpful, but officials advise you not to get a false sense of security.

"When you use this technology, it will call 9-1-1, but you still need to be able to speak to us to tell us the location and what the situation is," advised Kathleen Porche, a 9-1-1 dispatcher with Corpus Christi Metrocom.

The emergency function does send out your location data, but that info isn't always accurate enough to get help to your exact location. That's why it also makes a phone call. Dispatchers say if you have a chance to make the call yourself and speak with operators, that you should do so.

But flat-out making a call isn't always an option, and using the iPhone's emergency call slider may give an attacker the illusion that you're powering the phone down instead, allowing you to make a critical call for assistance. It's a feature also available on the Apple Watch as long as your Bluetooth is on and your phone is in range.

Just remember that your location won't be as precise as if you were able to give it yourself.

"It gave a pretty close location when we were testing it, but it wasn't on the spot, and when you are in an emergency situation you're going to want us to know exactly where you are located," Porche added.

Corpus Christi Police Department officials told KRIS 6 News that they're on the verge of a system upgrade to a more accurate emergency response service that takes advantage of recent technologies. Until then, in South Texas, there's no substitute for an old-fashioned phone call...though the emergency features certainly give you more ways to make it.

Reading on your phone? It's better with the app. Download the KRIS 6 News Mobile App for iOS/iPhone here and for Android here.

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