How your iPhone can save your life

Your Apple smartphone can be useful in some emergency situations, even if you can't always get online.

Apple, iPhone, iOS , iOS 11, FM radio
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Yesterday we learned that iPhones don’t have an FM chip inside them to allow Apple to enable radio reception on its smartphones, but there are several ways mobile iOS handsets can save your bacon when disaster strikes.

iPhones and FM radio

Apple yesterday responded to calls that it should enable the FM radio chip the FTC said existed in iPhones.

The notion was that those who can’t get to a vehicle with a functioning radio or who had lost all their possessions due to disaster may be able to access FM frequencies on their iPhone to help them survive.

Unfortunately, its not possible. Apple’s worldwide marketing vice president, Philip Schiller, wrote:

“It is not possible. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals.”

Griffin Technology at one time manufactured the Griffin Navigate FM radio for iPods and iPhones, but the product has since been discontinued.

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Perhaps there is an opportunity to create a Lightning-based FM receiver dongle? Perhaps not.

Responding to the furore, Apple said:

“Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that's why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products.” 

Here are some of the ways your iPhone may help save your life:

How to dial Emergency services

You can dial emergency services from any iPhone. You do not need to unlock the device. On the lock screen tap the Emergency button to access the emergency calls dialler where you can dial 911.

Emergency SOS

New in iOS 11, Emergency SOS lets you discreetly call for help. You access it as follows:

  • On older iPhones, press the button on the right of the device rapidly five times.
  • On the iPhone 8/Plus/X just press and hold he Side button while also holding a volume button.

Ask Siri to dial

If you have Siri activated on your iPhone you can ask Siri to dial emergency services. This is a good way to get help if you don’t want to distract yourself with the iPhone, if you need to keep both hands free to deal with a dangerous situation, or if just can't use your hands. When you ask Siri to dial for help, it will give you a few seconds to change your mind in case it’s a false alarm.

Set-up Medical ID

Medical ID lets iPhone users place potentially life-saving information in a place on their iPhone that can be accessed by emergency services, even if the iPhone user is unconscious. The information could include medical allergies, life-threatening conditions, blood type and so on.

To add or change the information held in Medical ID, open the Health app and tap Medical ID at the bottom right of the screen. You must then tap Edit to see all the available options. By default, the app contains your name, but you can add information such as emergency contacts, blood type and organ donor information.

Accessing Medical ID

To get to Medical ID just tap Emergency on the lock screen and then choose Medical ID in the emergency dialler. iOS 11 also lets you also access Medical ID when you tap five times rapidly on the single side button.

Find my Friends/Share Location

If you have a friend you trust, consider sharing your location with them on a permanent basis, either by selecting an iMessage from them, tapping the I button and choosing Share my Location, or by sharing location via Find my Friends. You should certainly do this if you have advance warning of an emergency. Why? Because when the networks fail your contacts will be shown your last known location, which may help emergency services find you if you are in need of help.

Government emergency notifications

In the U.S., iPhones can receive the following emergency and AMBER alerts:

  • Alerts issued by the President or government agencies
  • Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
  • AMBER alerts
  • Alerts for extreme weather conditions

The devices also receive similar alerts in Japan.

These alerts are controlled in Settings>Notifications where you should scroll down to the bottom of the screen to reach Government Alerts. Here you can enable or disable alert types.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

To help prevent distracted drivers having unnecessary accidents, iOS 11’s Do Not Disturb While Driving will ask that you enable it the first time it senses you driving. You can also enable it in Settings>Control Center>Customize Controls and tap the green plus button to make it appear in Control Center. When this feature is active, you won’t receive calls or messages, but you will receive emergency notifications. You can choose to receive calls from selected contacts.

Apps for emergencies

A selection of apps you might want to download to your device that may be useful in an emergency.

This app provides you with a panic button that, when pressed, will send emergency services and your choice of contacts SMS and Push notifications to let them know where you are.

This useful app could provide you with some of the skills you need to handle a life or death emergency situation — even if you can’t get online.

The app will help you find the closest medical help. It also offers advice on symptoms and how to handle certain medical emergencies. 

This app is designed for those who know they have suicidal thoughts. The app provides them with three contacts to alert if they feel at risk, coping strategies and self-help tools.

Originally designed for college students, this app lets you alert up to six friends if you need help. It’s unobtrusive and lets you request three types of help in two taps: Come and get me, call me I need an interruption and an ‘I need to talk’ text. (bSafe is a similar app).

There are numerous apps available on the App Store that offer these and other potentially life-saving tools, information and features. Do you have any emergency-focused iPhone apps you like to use?

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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