How to Add & Access An iPhone’s Emergency Contacts

Updated

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Any iPhone user knows that, despite the name, these devices aren’t merely phones. They’re little computers we can use to browse the web, send emails, read books, play games, and so much more.

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Along with offering constant sources of entertainment and convenience at the press of a button, iPhones can also be very useful in emergencies. For example, you can set up emergency contacts in your phone that others can access just in case. Naturally, that means you can also access someone else’s iPhone emergency contacts, even if their phone is locked.

This guide will explain how to set an emergency contact on an iPhone, as well as how to access someone else’s emergency contacts. While you’ll hopefully never need to use this knowledge, it’s worth preparing.

Why Set Up an Emergency Contact?

Why is an emergency contact on your iPhone important? Having a way for first responders and loved ones to access your essential contacts quickly in an emergency can quite literally save your life. Set up an emergency contact in your iPhone for these reasons:

  • Emergencies: If you're unable to speak for yourself in an emergency, this is a way to share vital information quickly. 
  • First responders: First responders are trained to know how to access this emergency information on your iPhone. 
  • Family: Taking the time to identify your emergency contacts is also an important part of planning for the future. Let your family members know who you've selected as your emergency contact. 
  • Life-saving information: If you're in an emergency, you'll also want to know how to access someone else's iPhone emergency contact. This could give you life-saving information when it's needed most. 
  • Digital legacy: This is an essential part of your digital legacy. It makes it easier for loved ones to access your devices when your gone, whether they're planning a virtual memorial with GatheringUs or trying to access accounts. 

As you can see, it's never been more important to use your iPhone's emergency contact feature. It only takes seconds to set up, so there's no reason now to enable this life-saving feature. 

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How to Access Someone Else’s Emergency Contacts On Their iPhone

The next section of this blog will explain how to set up emergency contacts in the Medical ID section of the iPhone’s Health app. If someone’s iPhone is unlocked in an emergency, you can access their contacts simply by opening the Health app, selecting Medical ID, and scrolling down the page to see their contacts.

That said, in an emergency, there’s a good chance someone’s iPhone will be locked. Follow these steps to access their emergency contacts if that’s the case.

1. Go to the lock screen

Accessing the lock screen on a locked iPhone is as easy as pressing any given button (or the screen itself) until it prompts you to enter the phone’s passcode.

If someone uses their fingerprint to unlock their phone, you may have to place your fingerprint on the button a couple of times until the passcode entry function appears on the screen.

2. Tap Emergency

The word Emergency will be on the bottom left of the passcode entry screen. Tap it.

3. Tap Medical ID

You’ll now have the option to access someone’s Medical ID by tapping on the words when they appear on the screen. Here you may find their emergency contacts, as well as a range of other information that may be useful in these circumstances. That said, if a person hasn’t set up their Medical ID, you won’t even see an option to check it.

Tapping the Emergency button from the passcode entry/lock screen also gives you the option to make an emergency call with someone’s locked iPhone. This may be necessary if you’re in an emergency with someone unable to make the call themselves and you don’t have a charged phone on hand.

How to Set Up Your iPhone’s Emergency Contacts

Whether it’s a family emergency, medical crisis, or mental health episode (just to name a few), there are plenty of situations that might require someone to make a call to an emergency contact via your iPhone if you’re unable to. Ensure they can do so by following these steps to set up your emergency contacts.

(You might also want to consider setting up emergency contacts on your phone as part of the advance care planning process.)

1. Open the Health app

Your iPhone stores your emergency contacts through its Health app. You may want to make sure your phone is running the latest iOS upgrade before opening the app, though, otherwise the steps in the process may be somewhat different depending on the version you’re using.

2. Tap your profile picture

Your profile picture will be an icon in the top right corner of the Health app’s home screen. If you didn’t set a profile picture, it will be a generic circle icon featuring your initials.

3. Tap Medical ID

After tapping your profile picture you’ll see several options under various headers. Under the Medical Details header at the top of the page, tap Medical ID, then tap Edit. Keep in mind, if you haven’t entered any Medical ID information yet, you’ll receive a Get Started prompt after tapping it, but the process will otherwise be the same as it is here.

4. Scroll to Emergency Contacts

Scroll down the Medical ID page to the Emergency Contacts section at the bottom. Tap where it reads “add emergency contact” next to the green plus sign. Then, tap a name from your Contacts list to add them, and specify what their relationship with you is (you should also specify if someone is a healthcare proxy). Tap Done when you’ve added the contacts you wanted to include.

Setting up your emergency contacts on iPhone is as simple as that. However, it’s worth noting that you can also include other information in the Medical ID section of the Health app that may be useful in an emergency, such as blood type, any medical conditions you have, allergies, and more. Consider adding that info too while you’re setting up emergency contacts. 

Other Ways to Be Prepared for Emergencies With Your iPhone

Setting up emergency contacts on your iPhone isn’t the only way you can use your device to help you prepare for (or respond to) emergencies. The following are a few other tips worth keeping in mind:

Call emergency services

If you have an iPhone 8 or newer model, you can call local emergency services by holding the side button and one of the volume buttons at the same time until the Emergency SOS slider appears on the screen.

When it appears, drag it to the right to place a call. You can also simply continue holding the side and volume buttons. This will start a timer. If you don’t release the buttons before the timer runs out, your phone will place an emergency services call.

iPhone 7 or older

Don’t worry if you’re using an older iPhone! You can still call emergency services without actually dialing their number. However, the method is different.

On an iPhone 7 or older, quickly press the top or side button five times. The Emergency SOS slider will appear on your screen. Drag it to the right to make a call.

(Important note: If you happen to be in India, you only have to press the buttons three times. This will result in an immediate call.)

Use the Compass app

An “app” labeled Folder on most iPhones is actually (you guessed it) a folder for a few different apps. One of them is the iPhone's Compass app. If you’re an outdoor adventurer, you should know it’s there should you ever find yourself lost in the wild.

Sync Voice Memos with iCloud

Voice Memos is another app you can find in the iPhone’s Utilities Folder along with the Compass app. This app allows you to record yourself if you want to make an audio note of something.

It can also sync with all your iCloud devices. That means if you make a recording, someone can access that recording through other Apple devices, such as your Macbook or iPad, even if your phone is no longer working or accessible. To set this function up:

  • Open your iPhone’s Settings
  • Tap on your name at the top of the screen
  • Tap iCloud
  • Scroll down to Voice Memos and toggle it on

There may be situations in which this could be a helpful feature in an emergency. For example, although this isn’t a pleasant scenario to imagine, maybe an abuser is threatening you with physical violence, and you decide to record them so you have proof later. Now, even if they take your phone and destroy it, you’ll still have your evidence.

Use Google Maps offline

If you’re like many iPhone users, you probably rely on an app like Google Maps whenever you’re navigating an unfamiliar area. However, you have to be online to use Google Maps. If you’re offline, it does you no good, right?

Actually, not so. You can download sections of Google Maps to access them offline via your iPhone. To do so:

  1. Open the Google Maps app while you’re online (and not in Incognito mode)
  2. Search for a destination/place, such as “Brooklyn, NY”
  3. Tap the name or address of the destination at the bottom of the screen
  4. Select Download
  5. Choose the area of the map you want to download for offline use
  6. Start the download

Now, when you open Google Maps on your iPhone, you can access the menu by pressing the icon in the search bar, then select Offline Areas. 

Set an Emergency Contact on iPhone: A Smart Idea

From creating a digital end-of-life plan to simply preparing for life’s unexpected crises, there are many reasons to set up emergency contacts on your iPhone. Because the process of doing so is very simple, there’s actually no reason not to.

If you're looking for more resources on emergency preparedness, read our guides on how to create an emergency contact list and what to pack for an emergency evacuation.


Sources

  1. “Download areas and navigate offline.” Google Maps Help, Google, support.google.com/maps/answer/6291838?co=GENIE.Platform%3DiOS&hl=en#:~:text=Download%20a%20map%20to%20use,Select%20Download%20offline%20map
  2. “Make an emergency call from a locked iPhone.” Apple Support, Apple, support.apple.com/en-us/HT209053
  3. “See your voice memos on all your devices.” Apple Support, Apple, support.apple.com/guide/voice-memos/see-your-voice-memos-on-all-your-devices-vma6cc4d0571/mac
  4. “Use Emergency SOS on your iPhone.” Apple Support, Apple, support.apple.com/en-us/HT208076#soscontacts
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