Intruders, fire, tornadoes, floods: 4 ways your phone can save you in an emergency

Your phone is an important, doubtlessly life-saving instrument you in all probability have with you always.

Angela Lang/CNET

We take our phones as a right as the middle of our social lives and leisure. But within the fallacious scenario, it might very effectively be your phone that saves your life. Should you wind up stranded on the facet of the highway, trapped inside your home or confronted with an intruder that makes it not possible to dial 911, the Android phone or iPhone in your hand is a doubtlessly life-saving instrument. 

Just final 12 months, a younger man’s life was saved after he began having an asthma attack and dialed 911 from his Android phone. Despite his not having the ability to talk with the operator, his location was despatched to the decision middle and assist arrived in time. In 2017, a 4-year-old saved his mom’s life simply by asking Siri to name for assist. And phony calls to order pizza might help victims of domestic violence alert the police.

These excessive examples underscore the function that telephones can play in stopping lack of life when conditions spin uncontrolled. It’s sensible to know how just a few settings, apps and different instruments might doubtlessly assist. Police departments and first responders additionally notice our telephones are an important instrument throughout emergency conditions.

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We talked to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in Colorado for recommendation and ideas concerning the some ways a phone can actually be your lifeline.

Natural disasters

Tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes and hurricanes can devastate buildings and significant utilities in only a few minutes. The harm can final for days and weeks, taking down electrical grids and cell towers within the course of.

Whether it is an surprising occasion or one you’ve got had time to organize for, listed below are some tips about getting assist:

  • Send textual content messages as a substitute of making an attempt to put phone calls. Between harm to cell towers and energy traces, and the pressure that will probably be placed on the community as first responders concentrate on an space, getting a phone name to undergo goes to be hit and miss. Text messages, nonetheless, require far fewer community sources and have a greater probability of going by means of.
  • Apps and services for natural disasters: From hurricane monitoring to reuniting you with family and friends members, there’s an app that will help you with nearly any pure catastrophe.
  • SOS apps: The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have a variety of choices that use your phone’s digicam flash sign to ship an SOS in Morse Code, just like the free Flashlight & More Utility for iPhone and Super-Bright LED Flashlight for Android.

Storms can take out electrical grids and cell towers in only a few seconds.

Ricky Arnold/NASA

Stranded within the wilderness

To preserve your phone’s battery as a lot as doable, disable apps and providers that will not discover you assist, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When there isn’t any mobile protection, airplane mode will preserve your phone from continuously trying to find sign, which saves treasured battery reserves.

GPS works offline to search out you

  • Importantly, you’ll be able to nonetheless use your phone’s GPS performance even when it is in airplane mode.
  • If you are planning a hike, apps like GAIA GPS allow you to obtain an offline map of the realm you may be in, after which use your phone’s GPS to find your self. I’ve examined the app on an iPhone XS Max and Pixel 3 XL and at instances it took 30 seconds or so to find me, however in the end GPS labored simply tremendous with out mobile protection. 

In the wilderness, take loads of precautions.

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Find out info about edible vegetation

Unless rather a lot about vegetation, odds are you are not going to know what’s fit for human consumption should you’re in dire want of vitamin. You have just a few choices:

  • Download the Wikipedia app and save the poisonous plants Wiki for offline viewing. It’s not the perfect answer, however the record has images and temporary descriptions of vegetation that would trigger hurt.
  • On Android telephones, Google Lens might help establish unknown vegetation should you’re in an space with wi-fi reception, however be careful for toxic lookalikes — Lens isn’t a licensed botany instrument and shouldn’t be relied upon. We particularly warning in opposition to consuming wild mushrooms or berries. 
  • However, an app like Lens might be useful for basic data, reminiscent of which a part of a typical plant is digestible — and inner hyperlinks result in extra data. Note that Google Lens can drain your battery.
  • Download a regionally particular app, e.g. “Colorado hiking and plants,” to offer extra particular details about native vegetation.

Texting to 911 is an possibility to remember.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Break-in or energetic shooter

The very first thing you’ll want to do after you notice somebody has damaged into your home or there’s an energetic shooter close by is to cover and switch off all sounds in your phone. Dim its lights or swap into darkish mode. Android customers can rapidly mute their phone within the quick-settings panel, and iPhone customers can use the mute swap.

Additionally, go into your phone’s settings app and disable all vibration, together with keyboard and contact vibration — vibration might be audible, particularly if the phone is resting on a floor. 

Rely on textual content messaging to alert somebody on the skin what is going on on. has more suggestions that will help you put together for an energetic shooter scenario.

Depending on the place you reside, texting 911 could also be an extra possibility. The FCC retains an up-to-date spreadsheet of cities that support text-to-911. The record is up to date as soon as a month. I recommend looking out the spreadsheet (Cmd+F on Mac, or Control+F on a PC) to search out town or county you are in, or will probably be visiting, to see in the event that they help text-to-911. 

If you try to make use of text-to-911 and it isn’t supported in your space, you’ll obtain a message again letting nobody obtained your message and you’ll want to place a name. If it is unsafe to take action, textual content trusted and responsive contacts to allow them to place a name in your behalf.


Your phone’s voice assistant can name for assist, even when your phone is on the opposite facet of the room.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When you’ll be able to’t bodily name for assist

  • iPhone customers can say, “Hey, Siri, call 911,” whereas Android customers ought to be capable to say, “OK, Google, call 911.”
  • Make certain you might have Hey Siri enabled in your iPhone by going to Settings > Siri > Listen for Hey Siri. If you utilize Android, long-press on the house button to convey up Google Assistant and say, “Set up Voice Match.”
  • If you are residence and have an Amazon Echo close by in addition to an Echo Connect, which permits your Echo to make phone requires you, you should utilize the Alexa assistant to name 911.
  • An Apple Watch Series 4 and newer enables you to set up built-in fall detection that can name for assist when it detects a fall and also you’re unresponsive.

Share your location with solely those that you fully belief. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Other methods to be ready: Shared location, emergency contacts, battery packs

Originally revealed final 12 months, and up to date periodically.

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