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This hidden iPhone feature ‘literally saved lives’ in deadly Maui fires

It’s an iOS feature that may save your life.

In a natural disaster, there’s a high chance of losing cellphone and internet service, making it impossible to contact loved ones or emergency services.

However, a little-known feature called Apple Emergency SOS on the iPhone could be a literal lifesaver.

Michael Miraflor recently shared a story on X, formerly known as Twitter, of the devastating Maui wildfires that provided a real-life example of how invaluable the feature can be.

“My brother’s girlfriend’s cousin and his family were caught in their vehicle in Maui while the wildfires suddenly erupted around them,” Miraflor explained in the tweet, which has topped 8.7 million views since being posted Aug. 9.

“No cell service, so Apple Emergency SOS was the only way they could get in contact with first responders,” he continued. “Literally saved their lives.”

The feature sends messages to emergency responders using a satellite, even if you don’t have any cellular service.

Apple’s iPhone 14 emergency satellite service.
Apple Insider

Emergency SOS via satellite - iPhone 14 screenshot.
The satellite feature could save lives.

Screenshot of an exchange between emergency responders and a family he knows that became stranded in the Maui wildfires.
Miraflor shared screenshots of the emergency texts.
Michael J. Miraflor / Twitter

Miraflor shared a screenshot of the Emergency SOS texts between the fire department and dispatchers, which pinpointed his family’s location and sent this info to the dispatcher.

That enabled the endangered residents to communicate the conditions surrounding them.

In a comment, Milafor said the family was safely evacuated within 30 minutes because of the Emergency SOS satellite feature.

The family was found at the Outlets of Maui, a shopping mall in Lahaina near the fires, according to the Economic Times.

The Apple feature was first released in November 2022. According to Apple’s website, when a user makes a call with SOS, the iPhone automatically calls the local emergency number and shares your location with emergency services.

You can also add emergency contacts, who will be alerted with a text message after the call ends. An additional Phone 14 feature allows texts between Emergency SOS and emergency services via satellite when there is no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage.

In May, the emergency feature helped save 10 hikers who found themselves lost in California’s Santa Paula Canyon without a cellphone signal, AppleInsider reported.

They used the Emergency SOS feature to contact the Ventura County sheriff’s department and were found and brought back safely by a search and rescue team.

How to make an emergency call:

Make the call on iPhone 8 or later: 

  1. Press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
  2. Drag the Emergency Call slider to call emergency services. If you continue to hold down the side button and volume button, instead of dragging the slider, a countdown begins and an alert sounds. If you release the buttons after the countdown, your iPhone automatically calls emergency services.

Make the call on iPhone 7 or earlier:

  1. Rapidly press the side (or top) button five times. The Emergency Call slider will appear.
  2. Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services

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