SOS via Satellite saves family caught out in Maui wildfires

in iPhone

Apple's iPhone 14 lineup has a feature that lets users connect directly to a satellite when cellular service isn't available, and it helped save a family caught in the Maui wildfires.

SOS via Satellite
SOS via Satellite

SOS via Satellite has only been active since November 2022, but it has been credited for many rescues already. The feature automatically becomes available when no other communication options appear.

According to an X post from Michael Miraflor first seen by 9to5Mac, a family of five were caught inside their vehicle with no means of escape as the Maui wildfire burned around them. At least one passenger had an iPhone 14, which allowed them to contact emergency responders.

The X post embedded below contains the text conversation that occurred after getting a signal via satellite. Expand the image -- it's a long one.

My brother's girlfriend's cousin and his family were caught in their vehicle in Maui while the wildfires suddenly erupted around them.

No cell service, so Apple Emergency SOS was the only way they could get in contact with first responders. Literally saved their lives.

— Michael J. Miraflor (@michaelmiraflor)

When activating SOS via Satellite, users are prompted to answer a few questions about the situation so it can all be sent in a bundle to responders. This reduces the time it takes emergency personnel to assess the situation since sending each message could take several minutes.

According to the text history, five people were trapped in a van near an outlet mall in Maui. It took responders about thirty minutes to arrive and rescue them.

SOS via Satellite has been used in many life-saving situations. A few instances involved getting people off of a mountain, and one helped draw attention to a wildfire fight off of a lake.

Despite dramatic helicopter rescue footage at the iPhone 14 launch event causing some eye rolls, it seems SOS via Satellite is performing exactly as Apple advertised. The service has been slowly rolling out globally, is less accurate towards the poles, and is free for the first two years.

Read on AppleInsider

Bart Y


  • Reply 1 of 3
    Bart YBart Y Posts: 62unconfirmed, member
    Sadly, I thought this was going to be the case.  Power, cell services, and emergency response were the first major issues once the fires reached those services and impaired or destroyed them.  Satellite SOS and remaining outlying or relaying services must have been contacted.

    Having visited Lahaina and Maui in the past, I’m in tears for those lost, those whose lives and property have been upended, and the entire island for its cultural, historical, business, and personal losses.  This will be a decades long rebuilding process.

    I’m proud of Apple giving its users this service and its ability to literally save people’s lives.  I grieve for those who could not get to safety.
  • Reply 2 of 3
    XedXed Posts: 2,223member
    This feature is less than a year old and we're also so accustomed with it success that this thread only has two posts after a day? Personally, I'm still amazed by the tech, I hope a comparable tech comes to all other smartphones on the market (not just the iPhone), and will gladly upgrade my Watch Ultra if that feature arrives this year.
  • Reply 3 of 3
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 1,025member
    I have the iPhone Pro 14 but opt to use Zoleo - a service that can interface with your iPhone for communications via satellite but allows more than what Apple’s service offers.
    Zoleo is also not emergency contact only, for those who travel to places with little or no cell service it is a highly valuable asset to have.

Sign In or Register to comment.