iPhone Emergency SOS: How It Works and How to Disable Auto Call

iOS Emergency SOS automatically contacts 911 without unlocking your phone. This can be a lifesaver or it could be a major pain.

Starting with iOS 11, there is a new emergency SOS feature.  This lets you quickly contact 911 or an emergency contact without unlocking your phone. For iPhone 7 and earlier, this is activated by pressing the side button five times. With the iPhone 8 and later, you activate it by pressing and holding the side button and one of the volume buttons. Then what happens? Read on to find out.

iOS Emergency SOS Auto-Call and Emergency Contacts

After you’ve activated Emergency SOS, you’ll have the option to swipe to contact emergency services or dial your emergency medical contact. Once this happens, you will begin sharing your location with emergency services and your emergency contact even if you’ve turned location services off.

In order your Emergency SOS to contact the right people, you have to add them as emergency contacts in your Health app. Otherwise, Emergency SOS will only dial 911 (or the equivalent in your area).

To add an emergency contact, open the Health app, select Medical ID in the bottom-right, and select Edit. Go down to the Emergency Contacts and select add emergency contact.

Once you’ve done that, you can go to your Settings and then Emergency SOS for some more options.

The most important setting here is Auto Call. With Auto Call enabled, your phone will automatically dial emergency services after a 3-second countdown. It will play a very loud and very annoying alert sound as it does this, which I discovered while trying to test this feature out at 4:30AM while my kids were sleeping (awesome).

Speaking of kids, if you’re prone to leaving your phone with a child or someone otherwise predisposed to pressing buttons over and over and perhaps accidentally activating the Emergency SOS feature, then I highly recommend you do not enable Auto Call.

As of now, there doesn’t appear to be a way to disable Emergency SOS on the iPhone, other than turning off Auto Call. You can also keep Auto Call on and turn off the countdown sound.

Have you ever used Emergency SOS on your iPhone? Tell us about it in the comments.



  1. Securly Support

    March 20, 2018 at 10:27 am

    This is why I might switch to Android.

  2. Dave "911" Carroll

    August 20, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    I recently wet my iPhone X, and even though it is water resistant, it completely stopped working. Or, er’ well to be fair, I more like drowned it at the bottom of my grandchild’s bubble bath. You know how it is: you lean over to wash the baby and splash there it goes!

    So I attempted to dry it out using the good old rice trick. Low and behold it worked !!!……’ well kinda. I heard it make the power on/booting up sound and then it promptly called 911! I couldn’t see the screen, it was not functioning, but this auto call feature certainly was !!!! I could not stop it, I could not turn the phone off it just seem to have a mind of its own. After I explained what happened to the gentleman who answered the 911 call and promised him I would the phone decided to re-dial 911 or maybe it thought that there was another emergency, I’m not sure!!!

    I finally did get it to stop by placing it in the microwave. Before I shut the door, I promised Siri if she did it again, I was going to turn the microwave on. There’s no doubt in my mind that the threat is what stopped it and not the microwave shielding.

  3. Hannah

    March 15, 2021 at 1:06 am

    Hasn’t happened to me thus far, but it happened to a friend of mine on accident and I think a similar thing happened to my sister. Both of their phones randomly called 911 while one was driving and the other was doing something else with her phone.

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