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In an emergency, your phone could literally save your life


Your phone is an important, possibly life-saving tool that you can carry with you at all times.

Angela Lang / CNET

It can happen in fractions of a second. In a minute, everything is fine and a wrong turn, an unexpected storm or a loud noise in the next room could put you in a dangerous situation. Whether you're stuck in the roadside blizzard, trapped by a hurricane and subsequent flooding in your home, or in a situation where you can not dial an emergency number, you have an important, possibly life-saving tool in your pocket: your phone ,

It's far too easy to think of our phones as a means of entertainment and communication, but everyone, from police to first responders, recognizes that our phones are an important tool in emergency situations.

The beginning of the year A young man's life was saved after he had an asthma attack and dialed the emergency call on his Android phone. Although he was unable to communicate with the operator, his location was sent to the call center and the help arrived on time. In 2017 a 4-year-old rescued his mother by asking Siri to call for help.

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These extreme examples underscore the role that phones can play in preventing deaths when situations get out of control. It's smart to understand how a few settings, apps, and other tools can potentially help. As always, preparation and education are the first steps.

We spoke with the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) in Colorado for advice and tips on how our phones are often the most important tools in an emergency. It could literally be your lifeblood.

Be prepared.

It is impossible to take into account every situation and every dilemma in which you find yourself, but you can take some steps to prepare yourself for what life offers you. Here are some general recommendations that apply to almost all types of emergencies.

Have external batteries ready.

Have at least one portable battery ready to extend your phone's battery life. If you camp and know that you are not connected to a power source for a long time, it may be useful to bring more than one battery with you. Depending on the battery you should be able to fully charge your phone three to four times.

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Portable batteries for cell phones Battery life, and that could make the difference.


There are many cheap packs for Android and iPhone that fit in a bag or backpack and each weigh less than a pound. The most important thing that PCSO has brought home when we talk to them is that your phone is charged and on.

Emergency services can use nearby cell towers to triangulate your location. However, this is not possible if your phone is empty juice and turns off. Always keep a portable battery in the glove compartment of your car or in your backpack (they weigh about three quarters pounds).

Note that hot environments can shorten the life of the battery and periodically check that they are in good condition and fully charged.

Or if you live in an area that is frequently subject to natural disasters, consider a more robust power plant. Portable power plants are about the size of a small speaker and can be stored under a cabinet or on a desk in your home.

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Keep the station connected and always charged. If the power goes out, you have a device that can charge your phone or, if necessary, power a mini-fridge or medical device for a few hours until help arrives, such as a phone call. to keep insulin or other important medicines cold.

Anker's PowerHouse line ($ 300) and Jackerys HLS 290 ($ 350) both have a capacity three to four times that of a smaller, portable pack and charges your phone up to 12 times in full, or keeps small devices running for up to 4 hours. Your phone lasts longer if you disable features that drain your battery.

Share your location with trusted friends now.

If you get lost, become unconscious or missing, there is a chance for friends and it is crucial that your family members find you without any interaction. Apple and Google both offer services that only those who you fully trust can view your whereabouts.

If you use a iPhone set up the Find My Friends app. The app allows approved friends or family members to monitor your location. If you do not want to grant access to permanent location tracking, you can always grant a temporary permission. Note, however, that in certain situations you may not have the time or the ability to send temporary requests.

If you use Android, Google Maps has a location sharing feature that allows you to view your current location and even the current battery status of your phone with contacts of your choice. Third-party tracking apps like Glympse do the same thing.

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Setting up emergency contacts and medical information

All phones have built-in emergency contacts or medical IDs. Emergency responders are trained to look at a person's phone to view emergency contact information and important medical information about any problems that may occur – even if your phone is locked.

Set up the Medical ID feature on the iPhone by opening the Health app and selecting the Medical ID tab, followed by Edit and Power On] Show When Locked . Enter all your information and contact, and then tap Done . Your iPhone's lock screen displays a medical ID button that allows first responders to access all of your information.

Under Android, the process depends on the brand of phone you are using, but this should generally be the case You can save your emergency details by opening the Settings app, viewing the user settings, and then Emergency Information choose. Enter your medical data and any emergency contacts.

At the bottom of the lock screen is an emergency button that displays your health information and emergency contacts.

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Planning a hike or a camping trip in the middle of nowhere? Your phone can still help you find the right path.

Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Tips for Specific Situations

With a source of emergency power, a way for someone to find you, and a way for rescuers to give you the right help, let's take a closer look at specific situations.

Natural Disasters

Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes can destroy buildings and critical utilities in just minutes. The damage can last for days and weeks, destroying electrical networks and cell towers.

Whether it was an unexpected event or an event you had to prepare for: [19659054] Send text messages instead of trying to make calls. Between damage to cell towers and power lines and the burden on the network as a first responder who focuses on an area, it is difficult to receive a call. However, text messages require far fewer network resources and have a better chance of passing through.

  • We have a summary of apps and services for natural disasters from hurricane surveillance to reunion with friends and family members, there's an app that will help you with just about any natural disaster.
  • The App Store and Play Store each have a wide range of options for SOS apps which use the flash signal from your phone camera to send an SOS in Morse code. You can use these apps if search parties are nearby at night and you want to get noticed, for example: For example, the free Flashlight & More utility for iPhone and Super-Bright LED Flashlight for Android.
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    Jason Cipriani / CNET

    Stranded in the wild?

    Getting lost or stranded on a planned hike or a storm in the wilderness is a very scary thought.

    In fact, the fact that our phones track and record our movements has led to privacy concerns and rightly so, but depending on the situation in which you find yourself, the ability of your phone To locate you, very well save your life. More importantly, you can use your phone's GPS feature in airplane mode as well.

    If you're planning a hike, install an app like GAIA GPS that will let you download a map of the area you're in, then use your phone's GPS to find you. I've tested the app on a iPhone XS Max and Pixel 3 XL and sometimes it took me about 30 seconds to find myself, but ultimately GPS worked flawlessly in airplane mode

    If you do not know much about plants, you probably will not know what to eat if you need to be eaten urgently. You have a few options:

    • Download the Wikipedia app and save the Poison Plant Wiki for offline viewing. It's not the best solution, but the list contains photos and a short description of the plant that could cause harm.
    • On Android phones, Google Lens can help identify unknown plants if you're in an area with wireless coverage. Keep in mind that many plants are similar and may look poisonous – Lens is not a certified botany tool and should not be relied upon. Special care should be taken when eating wild mushrooms or berries. However, it may be helpful to get general information – for example, which part of a common plant is digestible – and internal links lead to more information. Note that Google Lens can unload your battery.
    • Search your phone's App Store for more specific apps . Colorado hiking and plants, for example, returns apps that contain very specific information about that region.

    Remember to charge the battery of your phone as little as possible. First, disable all apps and services that you can not find help for. If you use airplane mode in a non-mobile area, your phone may not be constantly scanning for signals and not using valuable battery reserves.

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    Burglary or Active Sagittarius

    The first thing you need to do if you find someone has broken into your house or is near an active shooter is to hide and turn off any sounds on your phone. Android users can quickly mute their phone in the quick settings, and iPhone users can use the mute button.

    Also, go to your phone's Settings app and disable all vibration, including keyboard and touch vibration. Vibrations can be audible. especially when the phone hits a surface. Once that's done, rely on text messaging to tell someone from outside what's going on. Ready.gov offers further suggestions for preparing for an active shooter situation.

    Depending on where you live, text at 911 may be an additional option. The FCC maintains an up-to-date table of cities supporting text up to 911. The list is updated once a month. If you try to use 911 text that is not supported in your area, you will receive a message telling you that no one has received your message and you need to make a call. If that's not sure, send SMS to trusted and responsive contacts so they can make a call on your behalf.

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    Do not move to call for help.

    Angela Lang / CNET

    Even language assistants can help.

    For example, if you are injured while working on a home project, or you are cutting, falling, or otherwise needing help, take a deep breath and notice that your phone is working. Probably has a built-in speech assistant that can call 911 for you. iPhone users have to say, "Hey Siri, call 911," while Android users can say, "Ok Google, call 911".

    Make sure that Hey Siri is activated on your iPhone by go to Settings > Siri > Listen to Hey Siri . If you're using Android, long press the Start button to go to Google Assistant and say "Setup Voice Match."

    If you're at home and have a Amazon Echo nearby, the Alexa Assistant will also call for help if you have a Echo Connect with the Of course, if you have a Apple Watch Series 4 has built-in crash detection, which asks you for help if it detects a fall and you do not have your echo call for you, including 911.

    react more – as long as you have set it up .

    Hopefully you never have to Follow any of the above advice, at least in emergencies. But if you do, try to stay calm and remember that you have a very powerful device in your pocket that can help you get out of horrible situations if you use it properly.

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