iPhone 911 19:32 on Tuesday

Don’t ask me how I came to think of this but… how do you call 911 with the iPhone? (Or of course 112 if you’re here in Finland. Or some other number if you’re elsewhere.)

I have been told that one should practice dialing the emergency number, because many bad injuries are caused because people simply could not call the number, whether because of a temporary memory loss caused by the shock of an accident, or because they were physically unable to hit the right keys (eg. trembling too much). I guess that becomes a magnitude more difficult with a touch screen.

4 Responses to “iPhone 911”


  1. Vincent Gable Says:

    “False positives” — or a 911 call when there is no emergency is a danger too. A false-positive wastes limited emergency services, and can mean they aren’t there for people who really need them.

    Some phones are designed to make 911 as easy to call as possible, and the increase in false-positives they cause may be worse then the missed 911 calls. In particular I have seen: phones that let 911 bypass locking — so if you dialed 911, then hit send, it would call emergency services. And also “honored” all international emergency numbers. So if you called 911 or 112 or 999… the phone would dial 911 for you. The combination of multiple ways to dial 911 (999 was particularly bad, since it was easy for something in a pocket to “dial” it), plus locking the phone not stopping a call to 911 caused more false positives.

    I would need to have more hard data from accidents to decide if the trade off was for the best or not. I think a lot of this is measurable. Some questions that come to mind: How bad are false-positives, and how many of them are accidents, not pranks? How often do victims call? Maybe most of the time it’s uninjured witnesses who call in anyway, in which case it makes more sense to minimize false positives. How often do people get injured enough they can’t use an iPhone, but not enough to keep them from operating little push buttons on a RAZR? Is there evidence that victims who died before EMS could help them tried to use their phones? (body found with phone in hand, numbers dialed in, etc).

    On the flip side, there might be some clever biometrics/context sensitivity that the iPhone can make possible that could help in case of an accident. The accelerometers it uses to detect orientation could detect a huge impact — like a car accident. And could detect if the person’s had was shaking violently. The microphone could detect the sound of a loud bang, like in a car crash or explosion. Also, some basic voice-analysis might be possible to pick up on hysterics. It might also be possible to pick up the background noise of a fire-alarm, smoke detector, or klaxon. If there was a high suspicion that there was an emergency situation, it could put up a big “Call 911?” dialog, with a very very big “YES” button, and a tiny “no” button. I figure if you are too stressed out to hit “no”, you probably really mean yes ;-).

  2. Niko Says:

    Good points, all. I especially like the “detect shaking hand” approach… maybe an idea for general accessibility, not just accident aftermath?

    A small clarification in case there was a misunderstanding: I did not mean the injured persons would call 911 themselves, which of course could be even more of a challenge, but the bystanders or physically uninjured participants of the accident who can also be shocked, suffer memory loss and trembling.

  3. Wil Says:

    The keypad display, even when the phone is password locked, has a “place emergency call” button that allows you to dial 999, 911, 112, etc.

    Getting to that keypad could be an issue.

  4. NoDigiDi Says:

    hi, i was wonder if there’s a way to change the number for the emergency number in country?