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How to use iPhone’s Safety Check and Emergency SOS features

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Samar Haddad / The Verge

While there has — rightly — been a great deal written and broadcast about how to deal with attacks and privacy violations online and via social media, there is now increasing attention being paid to helping people stay safe in their homes and out in the world. Two features offered via Apple’s iPhones — one just introduced in iOS 16 — can help people who may need to separate themselves from dangerous people or situations: Safety Check and Emergency SOS.

Safety Check

One of the most significant new features in iOS 16 is Safety Check, which is specifically meant for people who find themselves in a difficult or abusive situation at home.

It is very common for friends and partners to share various apps and features such as photos, calendars, and location, among others. Unfortunately, it’s possible that these useful tools can be abused if the wrong person gets access or if a couple separates. Safety Check will allow you to cut off some or all of your connections so that you will no longer be trackable. According to Apple, the data that will no longer be shared includes such info as location information, your home data, photo albums, and more.

To use Safety Check:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Safety Check. You’ll see two features: Emergency Reset and Manage Sharing & Access.
safety check page
The Safety Check page lets you do an emergency reset or, more specifically, manage your shares.
Emergency Reset page
While creating an emergency reset, you can hit the Quick Exit button in case you need to.
  • If you need to immediately cut off access to your accounts, select Emergency Reset. You may be asked for a Face ID or other ID to access it.
  • Tap Start Emergency Reset to be guided through a quick process of protecting your data from people and apps, changing your Apple ID, and adding or removing emergency contacts.
  • To do a more considered review of specific people and / or apps that you’d want to switch off, select Manage Sharing & Access. Again, you may be asked for an ID.
Manage sharing & access page
Manage Sharing & Access lets you configure whom you want to deny access to and to what.
app access page
You can also pick out which apps you want to no longer access your data.
  • Tap on the Continue button, and you’ll be guided to adjust who you are sharing apps with, which apps have access to your data, which devices are signed in with your Apple ID, and which phone numbers are used to verify your account. You will also be asked if you want to update your Apple ID password, add or subtract emergency contacts, or update your device passcode.

Note that on every page of Safety Check, a Quick Exit link in the upper right corner will immediately move you back to your homepage (in case you suspect that somebody is watching as you use the feature).

Emergency SOS

Emergency SOS allows you to make an emergency call by either pressing and holding the side button and one of the volume buttons or pressing the side button five times.

emergency sos page
Emergency SOS lets you quickly connect to emergency services.
Medical ID page
To add an emergency contact, you are taken to the Medical ID page.

To set up Emergency SOS:

  • Go to Settings > Emergency SOS.
  • Activate Emergency SOS by toggling on either Call with Hold or Call with 5 Presses. In either case, when you perform the chosen action, you’ll get a countdown and the sound of an alert. After that, emergency services will be called.

You can also select an emergency contact to be alerted if Emergency SOS is activated.

  • Select Settings > Emergency SOS > Set up Emergency Contacts in Health.
  • You’ll be taken to the Medical ID page; tap Create Medical ID.
  • Scroll down to Emergency Contacts, and tap add emergency contact. You’ll then be able to choose a person from your contacts list.

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