People are sharing iPhone’s ’emergency SOS’ feature to help keep women safe

The little-known feature has gone viral on social media following the tragic disappearance of Sarah Everard.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 12th March 2021

An emergency SOS feature on iPhones has gone viral on social media after it was highlighted as a way of helping to keep women safe.

The little-known feature – which uses the iPhone lock button to sound a siren, as well as contact the emergency services and the emergency contacts saved in the phone’s address book – has been shared by thousands of people on both Twitter and Instagram over the last 24 hours.

The feature has gone viral following the tragic disappearance of Sarah Everard.

The 33-year-old Marketing Executive vanished after leaving a friend’s house in Clapham at about 9pm last Wednesday and beginning a 50-minute walk home to Brixton.

Since her disappearance – which has been widely reported on in global news outlets – a serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested for her suspected kidnap and murder, and investigators searching for her confirmed yesterday evening that human remains had been found in woodland in Ashford, Kent – although the remains have not yet been identified.


A woman was also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Since Ms Everard was reported as missing, social media has been flooded with women sharing their personal experiences of safety fears when out in public, particularly at night, alongside tips they have picked up to help protect themselves.


The iPhone Emergency SOS feature is one safety hack that’s been described by some as a “life-saver”.

So, how exactly does the feature work then? What does it do? How can it be set up?

The description for the Emergency SOS feature on the Apple website reads: “When you make a call with SOS, your iPhone will call the local emergency number automatically. In some countries and regions, you may need to choose the service that you need.


“You can also add emergency contacts [meaning that] after an emergency call has finished, your iPhone can alert your emergency contacts with a text message, unless you choose to cancel this option [and] your iPhone then sends them your current location, and, for a period of time when you have entered SOS mode, it sends updates to your emergency contacts when your location changes”.

Got an iPhone 8 model or later? Here’s how to activate Emergency SOS:

  1. Press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons until the ‘Emergency SOS’ slider appears. 
  2. Drag the ‘Emergency SOS slider’ to call emergency services. If you continue to hold down the side button and volume button, instead of dragging the slider, a countdown will start and an alert will sound. If you hold down the buttons until the countdown has finished, your iPhone will automatically call the emergency services.

If you have an iPhone 7 model or earlier, here’s how to activate Emergency SOS:

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

After the call has finished, your iPhone will send your emergency contacts a text message with your current location, unless you choose to cancel this option and in the instance that ‘Location Services’ is off, it will temporarily turn on.

If your location changes, your contacts will get an update and you’ll get a notification about 10 minutes later.


If you have an iPhone 8 model or later, you can also choose how you make the emergency call by pressing the side button five times.

Here’s how to change the setting:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap ‘Emergency SOS’.
  3. Turn ‘Call with Side Button’ on or off – Pressing and holding the side button along with the volume button will continue to work when this is on. 


You can find more information and FAQs about how to set up iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature via the Apple website here.