How to Make an Emergency Call on an iPhone

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There’s an emergency and you have to use someone else’s locked iPhone to call for help. Or, you need to call for help using your own iPhone, but it’s out of your reach or you’re not able to dial a number. The iPhone comes equipped to help out in both these circumstances by providing a dialing keypad for emergency use, and the ability to make an emergency call with Siri (assuming she’s turned on and ready to use hands-free).

Just remember that when you do call for help using a cell phone, you may need to provide additional information about your location since location tracking for emergency services isn’t as robust as it should be.

How to Make an Emergency Call Using the Keypad

iPhones have always included the ability to access a keypad you can use in case of emergencies, even when the phone is locked with a passcode. Just swipe right to move the welcome screen out of the way and then tap “Emergency” at the bottom left.

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You can use the keypad that appears to dial the emergency number for whatever country you’re in. The “Emergency call” text at the top of the keypad even changes to show the words “Emergency call” in multiple languages.

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Note that as a security measure, you can use this keypad only for emergency calls. If you try to call other numbers, it won’t work and the text at the top will change to read “Emergency calls only.”

How to Make an Emergency Call Using Siri

You can also place emergency calls using Siri. Assuming the iPhone has Siri enabled on the lock screen, you can use her to place calls on the phone when it’s locked. And, if the phone has Siri set up to work hands-free, you can initiate the call just by saying “Hey Siri”, which is especially useful if you can’t reach the phone or are unable to dial a phone number.

Activate Siri by pressing and holding the Home button or by saying “Hey Siri.” Once Siri is listening, you can issue a number of different commands. Note that you can also substitute “Dial” or “Phone” instead of “Call” for any of the following.

  • “Call 911”: 911 is the emergency call number for the United States, so you should substitute the emergency services number for whatever country you’re in. In some countries, even if you say “911” Siri will find the correct emergency services number and use that. But it doesn’t work that way in all countries.
  • “Call Emergency Services”: Siri will call the correct number for whatever country you’re in.
  • “Call the Police” or “Call the Cops”: Siri will call the regular emergency services number for the country you’re in when you use these commands.
  • “Call the Fire Department”: Siri will call the regular emergency services number for the country you’re in when you use this command.
  • “Call an Ambulance”: Siri will call the regular emergency services number for the country you’re in when you use this command.

When you issue the command, Siri will make the call right away without any confirmation. You can cancel the call within five seconds, but you can only cancel by tapping the Cancel button. You cannot cancel using your voice.

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Calling for emergency services on an iPhone is pretty straightforward, even if the phone is locked. Hopefully, you never need to make use of these features, but it’s good information to have just in case.

Walter Glenn is a long time computer geek and tech writer. Though he's mostly a Windows and gadget guy, he has a fondness for anything tech. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.