Skip to main content

How to use iPhone’s Safety Check and Emergency SOS features

How to use iPhone’s Safety Check and Emergency SOS features


There are a variety of features that can help guard your personal safety

Share this story

Emergency SOS on iPhone against illustration
Samar Haddad / The Verge

While there has — rightly — been a great deal written and broadcast about how to deal with attacks and privacy violations online and via social media, there is now increasing attention being paid to helping people stay safe in their homes and out in the world. Two features offered via Apple’s iPhones — one just introduced in iOS 16 — can help people who may need to separate themselves from dangerous people or situations: Safety Check and Emergency SOS.

Safety Check

One of the most significant new features in iOS 16 is Safety Check, which is specifically meant for people who find themselves in a difficult or abusive situation at home.

It is very common for friends and partners to share various apps and features such as photos, calendars, and location, among others. Unfortunately, it’s possible that these useful tools can be abused if the wrong person gets access or if a couple separates. Safety Check will allow you to cut off some or all of your connections so that you will no longer be trackable. According to Apple, the data that will no longer be shared includes such info as location information, your home data, photo albums, and more.

To use Safety Check:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Safety Check. You’ll see two features: Emergency Reset and Manage Sharing & Access.
safety check page
The Safety Check page lets you do an emergency reset or, more specifically, manage your shares.
Emergency Reset page
While creating an emergency reset, you can hit the Quick Exit button in case you need to.
  • If you need to immediately cut off access to your accounts, select Emergency Reset. You may be asked for a Face ID or other ID to access it.
  • Tap Start Emergency Reset to be guided through a quick process of protecting your data from people and apps, changing your Apple ID, and adding or removing emergency contacts.
  • To do a more considered review of specific people and / or apps that you’d want to switch off, select Manage Sharing & Access. Again, you may be asked for an ID.
Manage sharing & access page
Manage Sharing & Access lets you configure whom you want to deny access to and to what.
app access page
You can also pick out which apps you want to no longer access your data.
  • Tap on the Continue button, and you’ll be guided to adjust who you are sharing apps with, which apps have access to your data, which devices are signed in with your Apple ID, and which phone numbers are used to verify your account. You will also be asked if you want to update your Apple ID password, add or subtract emergency contacts, or update your device passcode.

Note that on every page of Safety Check, a Quick Exit link in the upper right corner will immediately move you back to your homepage (in case you suspect that somebody is watching as you use the feature).

Emergency SOS

Emergency SOS allows you to make an emergency call by either pressing and holding the side button and one of the volume buttons or pressing the side button five times.

iPhone’s Emergency SOS page with toggles for Call with Hold, Call with 5 Presses, Call Quietly, and Call After Severe Crash.
The Emergency SOS page lets you decide how to call emergency services.
Medical ID page
To add an emergency contact, you are taken to the Medical ID page.

Set up Emergency SOS

  • Go to Settings > Emergency SOS.
  • Activate Emergency SOS by toggling on either Call with Hold or Call with 5 Presses.
  • If you chose Call with Hold, you’ll see an Emergency SOS slider that you can use to immediately trigger the call. If you don’t use the slider but just keep holding down the side and volume buttons, you’ll get a countdown and the sound of an alert. After that, emergency services will be called.
  • If you chose Call with 5 Presses, you’ll immediately get the countdown and alert sound.
  • You can also select Call Quietly; this will allow you to make the call without any sounds or warning flashes.
  • Finally, you can toggle Call After Severe Crash on or off (if you do a lot of skiing, you may want to consider disabling it, at least temporarily; there have apparently been reports of several false alarms due to this feature).

Some people have found that they (or their kids) tend to accidentally activated Emergency SOS. When that happens, you can cancel the call.

  • If you’ve used Call with Hold, then release the side and volume buttons before the countdown finishes, and that should stop the call. (If you release them after the countdown, emergency services will be called.)
  • Otherwise (or if you use Call with 5 Presses), you can hit the red End Call button.

If that doesn’t work or if you don’t catch the call before it goes through, stay on the line and tell emergency services that it was a mistake.

Turn off Emergency SOS

If mistakes happens a lot — for example, if you have a five-year-old who likes to play with the buttons on your iPhone — you can turn Emergency SOS off by going to Settings > Emergency SOS and toggling off both Call with Hold and Call with 5 Presses.

You’ll still be able to start an emergency call — the feature will still be activated if the side button and one of the volume keys are held down. However, you will have to use the Emergency SOS slider to initiate the call.

Set up an emergency contact

You can also select an emergency contact to be alerted if Emergency SOS is activated.

  • Select Settings > Emergency SOS > Set up Emergency Contacts in Health.
  • You’ll be taken to the Medical ID page; tap Create Medical ID.
  • Scroll down to Emergency Contacts, and tap add emergency contact. You’ll then be able to choose a person from your contacts list.

Update February 14th, 2023, 1:16PM ET: This article was originally published on September 14th, 2022; the section on Emergency SOS has been updated.