Emergency SOS: How to Call for Help
If there’s something strange while you’re out on a ride, who you gonna call? That’s the big question. In the worst-case scenario, you may be so far away from civilization that you may not be able to call anyone.
Mobile device manufacturers are waking up to this reality. They’ve started adding satellite connectivity that can help people—including riders—to get help in remote places where regular cellular connections may be impossible.
Apple recently launched an Emergency SOS via Satellite feature that will be included in the iOS 16 update set to launch in November 2022. Google, too, has indicated that satellite connectivity may be coming with the next Android 14 version.
But even if you use an older phone model, you can still try to alert emergency services—even when normal phone connectivity is at zero. Unfortunately, many riders don’t know about their phones’ emergency features, which could put them at risk.
Let’s take a look at how different mobile emergency SOS features work, so you can call for help if you get in an accident.
Let’s begin with Apple which—as we mentioned—is set to soon roll out its satellite service. Although the feature isn’t out yet, Apple has released instructions so riders and others can learn how to use it.
Apple phones also allow you to set emergency contacts in the Health application. These contacts will receive an alert when you use SOS features, so you can let your loved ones know about your plight as well.
Emergency SOS via Satellite
To use the satellite connectivity, you will need an iPhone 14 model updated to the upcoming iOS 16 version. Even this device can’t call emergency services, but it can send text messages over satellite to call for help. Here’s how it works:
- If no regular cellular service is available, you will see an “Emergency Text via Satellite” button on the lock screen.
- Tap “Emergency Text via Satellite.”
- Tap “Report Emergency.”
- Your iPhone will prompt you to answer simple questions by tapping the presented options.
- Select whether you want to also alert your emergency contacts.
- Connect to the satellite with the presented button.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to establish and maintain the connection.
- Once connected to the emergency services, you can send them additional information via text messages.
As the service isn’t out yet, we can’t yet make any claims as to its reliability. Apple says the satellite feature will initially be available only in the U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada.
Emergency SOS on iPhone 8 or Newer
Even if you don’t have an iPhone 14, you can still use your device to call for help in an emergency. As long as your device is an iPhone 8 or newer, it has SOS functionality. Here’s how to use it:
- Press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons until an SOS slider appears.
- Drag the SOS slider to the right.
- If you can’t pull the slider, keep holding the buttons down and the phone automatically calls emergency services.
Emergency SOS on iPhone 7 or Older
In case you rely on an even older iPhone model, you can alert the authorities in an accident. This is how the feature works:
- Rapidly press the side or top button (depending on your device) five times.
- Drag the SOS slider to call emergency services.
You can also use your Apple Watch to contact emergency services. To activate this feature, press the device’s side button for several seconds until an SOS button appears.
Be aware that your iPhone must be nearby for the SOS feature to work. You also won’t be able to call anyone with just your Watch, but you can send automated emergency messages.
Android phones don’t yet support satellite connectivity. Google has hinted that the feature may be coming with the next major Android update, but for the time being, Android users have to rely on cellular connections.
As another small hitch, Android systems differ between different manufacturers’ devices. As such, your phone may function a bit differently from the below instructions. It’s a good idea to check your phone’s settings for how to activate SOS features.
Some manufacturers run a mostly unmodified—or “stock”—version of Android. These devices include Google Pixel and phones by Motorola, Asus, Sony, and Nokia, among others. On these devices, simply tap the power button five (5) times to call for help.
Tapping the power button will bring up an SOS screen that lets you call the local emergency number, play a loud alarm sound, share your location with emergency contacts, and share a video of your surroundings. You can select which options you have available through your phone’s Safety app.
Samsung’s popular Galaxy devices run a proprietary modification of the Android platform. These phones let you set your own emergency settings. Depending on what you’ve chosen, you can activate SOS mode by clicking the side button three or four times.
To set your emergency settings, launch your phone’s Settings app and navigate to “Safety and Emergency.” Here, you can determine how many times you need to press the side button and how you want to contact emergency services and emergency contacts.
Other Android Devices
With so many Android variants on the market, it’s difficult to give detailed instructions for every device. If your Android device wasn’t mentioned above, you should check how its emergency features work.
On most Android phones, you can open the Settings app and use the search function with keywords like “SOS” or “emergency” to find emergency settings and instructions for how to use them. If this fails, check the internet for your device’s instructions.
Some Android devices—especially older ones—may not have emergency features at all. In this case, consider installing a reputable emergency app on your phone. These apps aren’t as reliable as in-built SOS features, but they may save your life in a pinch.
7 Tips for Staying Safe in the Saddle
You should always be prepared for emergency situations before you head out for the ride. Here are some things you should do before you hop in the saddle and hit the road.
Charge Your Phone
Even the most robust security features won’t help if your phone is out of battery. Always charge your phone to 100% before you start a ride.
Get a Sturdy Phone Case
You should protect your phone so it doesn’t break on impact and leave you helpless on the side of the road. Invest in a strong, impact-resistant phone case.
Keep Your Phone on Your Body
Place your phone in an interior jacket pocket or another pocket so that you won’t be separated from it during an accident. This ensures your phone is at hand and not on the other side of the road when you need it.
Waterproof Your Phone
Water is electronics’ worst enemy. Buy a waterproof phone case and keep your phone in a waterproof pouch or pocket while you ride.
Activate All Safety Features
As you’ve learned, most phones let you pick which emergency features activate in SOS mode. For maximum safety, use everything at your disposal—set emergency contacts, allow SOS mode to use your phone’s location, and write preformatted emergency texts.
Don’t Charge Your Phone on the Bike
Many bikes today come with charging docks and outlets but avoid using them unless absolutely necessary. If your phone is docked during an accident, the impact may break it or send it flying out of your reach.
Ideally, you should never have to use your phone’s emergency features. Always remember to pay attention to traffic, road conditions, weather, and other risks so you can enjoy many more rides in the future.