Apple's Emergency SOS feature foils attempted sexual assault

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2019
An iPhone owner this week credited Apple's Emergency SOS feature with thwarting a sexual assault attempt in Virginia Beach, Va., an attack that could have turned deadly had police not received the automated alert.

Emergency SOS


The unnamed woman described her ordeal to CBS affiliate WTKR on Monday.

During the early hours of Sunday a lone stranger approached asking for help in finding his own iPhone, according to the report. The woman, not suspecting danger, agreed to play good Samaritan and was ultimately led to the boardwalk.

"I wasn't suspecting he was bad. He was a very normal, nice looking guy," she said. "I was like, 'Where are your friends? Why are you alone?' He was like, I'm in the military. I'm not from here,' and my brother is in the military -- I felt bad for him."

Luring the victim to a secluded area, the unidentified man said he believed the phone was lost in sand. The situation turned sour when the woman attempted to locate the supposedly missing phone with Apple's "Find My" app, an effort that bore no fruit. She became suspicious when the man was unable to navigate Apple's iOS user interface, suggesting he did not, in fact, own an iPhone and had manufactured the lost phone scenario.

"I get my phone back and I turn around and I try to run away and he just comes up from behind me, tackles me, grabs my face, is covering my mouth," the woman said. "I'm trying to scream for help, [he] tackles me to the ground -- is like shoving my face to the ground -- and now, because I've been screaming, he's holding my mouth even tighter trying to muffle any noise I'm making."

Luckily, Emergency SOS was enabled on the woman's iPhone, allowing her to automatically dial 911 without unlocking the device. In this case, a long press of both the power button and volume down button triggered the feature. Emergency SOS can also be invoked by pressing on the power button five times in rapid succession.

Police were directed to her location by a dispatcher who heard her pleas for help.

"They were originally going to look in the hotels and dispatch updated them that I was talking about the water -- I'm begging him not to drown, I don't want to drown -- so they knew to come look in the sand," she said.

The attacker fled on foot when police arrived on scene, but was quickly tracked down and apprehended.

"I'm so thankful for those police officers. I know they have a thankless job, and I just can't thank them enough," the woman said.

Apple's Emergency SOS feature debuted on watchOS in 2016 and made its way to iPhone in 2017. With iOS 11, Apple added the ability to alert designated emergency contacts with am automated text message that incorporates current location information.
dysamoriamacgui
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    Terrifying.  
    Hope the dude get serious jail time.  That includes being passed around by bubba and the gang.
    bradchatelliernetmageviclauyycwatto_cobrarazorpitjony0
  • Reply 2 of 38
    Well this story alone makes the feature worth it.
    dysamoriacaladanianchiawatto_cobrarazorpitbb-15jony0
  • Reply 3 of 38
    He’s using Ted Bundy’s playbook, asking young girls for help. Unfortunately his victims then didn’t have a chance to have an iPhone, or the feature could be useless anyway seeing Bundy always rendered his victims unconscious immediately after they agreed to help.
    Apple should add current location into this feature so the police will know where to look. Better yet the location should be updated automatically. 
    edited December 2019 Soliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 38
    Well this story alone makes the feature worth it.
    Fully agreed. I was unaware of the feature; this article was my first exposure to it. Makes me want to share this info with the people I know with iPhones.

    Do droid devices have anything similar? A girlfriend of mine has been considering driving across country to bring her car here and I’m uncomfortable with her being by herself on that trip. (Going to go look now)
  • Reply 5 of 38
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,321member
    dysamoria said:
    Well this story alone makes the feature worth it.
    Fully agreed. I was unaware of the feature; this article was my first exposure to it. Makes me want to share this info with the people I know with iPhones.

    Do droid devices have anything similar? A girlfriend of mine has been considering driving across country to bring her car here and I’m uncomfortable with her being by herself on that trip. (Going to go look now)
    As far as I am aware there is no universal Android equivalent. I know an emergency SMS can be sent and I believe certain Android phones from the likes of Samsung provide it in one form or another.

    One advantage of Apple products is that they all have it, the Apple Watch does too. So many examples of how this has saved lives, from car crashes to abductions.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 38
    Looking at it now... The UI needs more details about what it actually does and when/how.

    If you don’t list an emergency contact, does it still call emergency services?

    Do you need to enable the Auto Call feature for it to work at all, or is that a variation on some default behavior?

    I’m hesitant to do the rapid button press thing to test it. I see there’s a countdown setting, but, still, I don’t know what to expect; accidentally calling 911 is ... problematic.
  • Reply 7 of 38
    dysamoria said:
    Looking at it now... The UI needs more details about what it actually does and when/how.

    If you don’t list an emergency contact, does it still call emergency services?

    Do you need to enable the Auto Call feature for it to work at all, or is that a variation on some default behavior?


    Emergency SOS is always on, and it's programmed to dial 911 in the US.  And you can't change either of those settings.

    On newer devices, you activate it by pressing the right button and one of the volume buttons. Hold them and a slider will appear, and then slide to call. 

    If you have the Call with Side Button enabled, you can get to the slider screen by only pressing the right side button 5 times quickly. 

    If you have  Auto Call enabled, then continuing to hold the right button/volume button will initiate the call without needing to use the slider. Instead you'll get a countdown with a tone. You can cancel if need be.

    I believe it's best to have both features enabled which would allow you to activate with one hand, and not need to see the screen to use the slider.

    Additionally, you can add an emergency contact who will get a text message after 911 has been called, and they'll get your location and updates if your location changes.




    mwhiteRayz2016dysamoriaviclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 38
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Very good feature, this has real value in actual situations.
    Kudos for implementing it.
    Kudos for staying cool and use this feature. 
    watto_cobrarazorpit
  • Reply 9 of 38
    dysamoria said:
    Looking at it now... The UI needs more details about what it actually does and when/how.

    If you don’t list an emergency contact, does it still call emergency services?

    Do you need to enable the Auto Call feature for it to work at all, or is that a variation on some default behavior?


    Emergency SOS is always on, and it's programmed to dial 911 in the US.  And you can't change either of those settings.

    On newer devices, you activate it by pressing the right button and one of the volume buttons. Hold them and a slider will appear, and then slide to call. 

    If you have the Call with Side Button enabled, you can get to the slider screen by only pressing the right side button 5 times quickly. 

    If you have  Auto Call enabled, then continuing to hold the right button/volume button will initiate the call without needing to use the slider. Instead you'll get a countdown with a tone. You can cancel if need be.

    I believe it's best to have both features enabled which would allow you to activate with one hand, and not need to see the screen to use the slider.

    Additionally, you can add an emergency contact who will get a text message after 911 has been called, and they'll get your location and updates if your location changes.



    Good info. On Apple Watch hold and press bottom button and swipe on SOS. This fall when raking leaves I broke up some small tree limbs with by foot. The impact of my leg caused the Apple Watch to call 911. The built in Fall Detection sensor in the Watch thought I had fallen. There is a 3-4 second delay so you can cancel the call. However the call was made and when 911 called me I explained what happened and canceled the request. Emergency contacts were also texted. I had some explaining to do. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 38
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,048member
    Apparently the iPhone doesn't show LAT/LONG on EMS calls? You can get them from the Compass app if lost but in an emergency, being able to supply them without thinking about it could be extremely helpful. Of course not every police department nor RMP may have that capability.

    I know of situations where police have supplied LAT/LONG info from iPhones to helos who then know where to go. It could be a toggled feature that would be more helpful than using cell tower triangulation, when and where that's even possible.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 38
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    ............

    nevermind.......
    edited December 2019
  • Reply 12 of 38
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,600member
    Not sure how she was able to press the power button and volume down button simultaneously while being assaulted. 
  • Reply 13 of 38
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,309member
    The SOS feature on the phone is like stone age compared to that of the Apple Watch.
    In this case, the SOS to 911 would likely have been triggered automatically when he tackled her.   Or, if it didn't get triggered automatically, simply holding the right button for a few seconds gives the option to initiate it with a simple tap.

    As for sending exact locations to 911:   Yes, both iPhone and Apple Watch need to do that.   It's easy enough since both already know your location within a few meters.   But then, the local 911 center needs to be equipped to accept it and use it.   When I spent some time at the state of the art Pittsburgh 911 center a few years back, it did not have the capability of receiving location data even if it was sent to them.   They simply had to ask "What is your address?"  I don't know if that has been upgraded since.

    I hope that Apple increases its complimentary, cooperative efforts not only with the health care system but with emergency operations as well.  The winner will be us.

    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 38
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,480member
    Terrifying.  
    Hope the dude get serious jail time.  That includes being passed around by bubba and the gang.
    Yep, funny how this guy might escape justice in the courts with a good lawyer and a couple of years out of his life but will likely receive the justice he deserves from his fellow inmates. 
    watto_cobrarazorpit
  • Reply 15 of 38
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,480member

    dysamoria said:
    Looking at it now... The UI needs more details about what it actually does and when/how.

    If you don’t list an emergency contact, does it still call emergency services?

    Do you need to enable the Auto Call feature for it to work at all, or is that a variation on some default behavior?

    I’m hesitant to do the rapid button press thing to test it. I see there’s a countdown setting, but, still, I don’t know what to expect; accidentally calling 911 is ... problematic.
    Feature saves a woman’s life and somebody has to come in and shit on it, questioning its usability, questioning its functionality, demanding changes from Apple. It never fails.
    ronnviclauyycwatto_cobramacguishark5150
  • Reply 16 of 38
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 554member
    dysamoria said:
    Looking at it now... The UI needs more details about what it actually does and when/how.

    If you don’t list an emergency contact, does it still call emergency services?

    Do you need to enable the Auto Call feature for it to work at all, or is that a variation on some default behavior?

    I’m hesitant to do the rapid button press thing to test it. I see there’s a countdown setting, but, still, I don’t know what to expect; accidentally calling 911 is ... problematic.
    Actually, you should test things like this. Several Android phones had a bug a while ago which caused the phones to reboot when users called 911. That's exactly the kind of thing you want to know about before depending on a device. It's also common when setting up phone systems in offices and the like to test 911 to make sure everything is configured properly.

    In general, try calling your local police department's non-emergency number. They should be able to get you to the 911 call center to warn them, but they may just tell you to call 911 and tell them you're testing.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 38
    neilmneilm Posts: 903member
    lkrupp said:

    dysamoria said:
    Looking at it now... The UI needs more details about what it actually does and when/how.

    If you don’t list an emergency contact, does it still call emergency services?

    Do you need to enable the Auto Call feature for it to work at all, or is that a variation on some default behavior?

    I’m hesitant to do the rapid button press thing to test it. I see there’s a countdown setting, but, still, I don’t know what to expect; accidentally calling 911 is ... problematic.
    Feature saves a woman’s life and somebody has to come in and shit on it, questioning its usability, questioning its functionality, demanding changes from Apple. It never fails.
    Don't be such a twat. The guy is asking for information — the question marks would have been your first clue. And yes, accidentally calling 911 would be problematic.
    netmagedysamoriacharlesatlasrazorpitmaltz
  • Reply 18 of 38
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,030member
    matrix077 said:
    He’s using Ted Bundy’s playbook, asking young girls for help. Unfortunately his victims then didn’t have a chance to have an iPhone, or the feature could be useless anyway seeing Bundy always rendered his victims unconscious immediately after they agreed to help.
    Apple should add current location into this feature so the police will know where to look. Better yet the location should be updated automatically. 
    I like that idea. I hope the rumors of Apple launching their own data satellites are both true and come to fruition.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 38
    gmacgmac Posts: 77member
    macgui said:
    Apparently the iPhone doesn't show LAT/LONG on EMS calls? You can get them from the Compass app if lost but in an emergency, being able to supply them without thinking about it could be extremely helpful. Of course not every police department nor RMP may have that capability.

    I know of situations where police have supplied LAT/LONG info from iPhones to helos who then know where to go. It could be a toggled feature that would be more helpful than using cell tower triangulation, when and where that's even possible.
    iOS does share device GPS with e911 services https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/06/apple-ios-12-securely-and-automatically-shares-emergency-location-with-911/ But possibly in this case they police or 911 operators never received / requested the information. 
    dysamoriawatto_cobramacgui
  • Reply 20 of 38
    jccjcc Posts: 300member
    The emergency trigger (5x button push) actually lets out a loud alarm letting you know it's about to call 911. How did the rapist not hear that and turn it off? How can any perp not hear that and just turn it off?
    watto_cobra
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