First responders praise iPhone’s ‘live saving’ satellite texting feature


Since Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature debuted alongside the iPhone 14 last year, there have been a number of stories about the feature being used in the real world. A new report from Backpacker this week offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the iPhone’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature has impacted search and rescue operations in Los Angeles County.

In the report, the assistant director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Mike Leum, says that there have been “over a dozen” rescues thanks to the Emergency SOS via satellite feature.

“What we’ve experienced is that there are multiple benefits to this feature. Number one is the immediate notification that we get. People have an hour to get advanced life support to increase their survivability,” Leum explains. “In a couple of these incidents, people’s lives were one hundred percent saved because of this feature.”

Leum also praised the two-way communication provided by the feature:

“The great thing about that feature—there are many great things about this feature—is that it is a two way communication device,” says Leum. “So when they send the 911 text message, the station can reply and find out very important information like: Is anybody hurt? How many people are with you? Does anyone have any medical conditions?”

Meanwhile, Steve Goldsworthy, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s search and rescue technology director, called the Emergency SOS via satellite feature “a complete game changer.” In particular, Goldsworthy says the precise location provided by an iPhone in these situations can be lifesaving.

In a conventional rescue setting, Goldsworthy explains, it could take an hour or more just for someone to find cell service and call for help after witnessing an accident. Once they’re able to connect with law enforcement, the SAR team still has to respond, which takes even more time. The ability to summon help by smartphone via satellite cuts out the middleman, drastically improving emergency response times.

As for concerns about abuse or false activations, Goldsworthy says that he has worked directly with Apple to fine-tune the feature. “If we were to get an SOS call, we’d treat it very seriously because of the success rate that we’ve had,” he says.

The full report at Backpacker is well worth a read and includes a few interesting examples of Emergency SOS via satellite being used in the wild.

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