The New iOS 11 Emergency Services Tool Could Save You From A Bad Situation

We've all been there: You're walking home alone after dark when a strange man takes a little bit too much of an interest in you. Or maybe it's a potential domestic violence situation, with a confrontation with a significant other tottering on the verge of getting physical. For women (and men, too), everyday situations can sometimes turn dangerous quickly and dramatically. Yes, screaming your head off for help can certainly save you sometimes, but there are also instances, like the ones described above, that call for much more discretion. Enter Apple's newest safety feature, which aims to help those in a bad situation when openly calling 911 could put them at even more risk. So, here's how to use Emergency SOS in iOS 11 to be prepared for whatever might come your way.

The concept behind the brand-new SOS feature is simple: Once it's enabled, users will be able to hit the sleep/wake button on the top right corner of their phones five times fast and instantly summon emergency services. It's a simple yet pretty ingenious innovation for when hopping on the phone with a 911 dispatcher could do more harm than good, because it's discreet. After all, if you have your iPhone in hand but it's not in use, your thumb or pointer finger is probably naturally resting pretty darn close to the sleep/wake button anyhow, which lends some discretion to the act of calling for help.

If you think you might ever need to use this feature (and you really never know when you might), you need to do some quick planning ahead by setting it up. Luckily, that process is about as simple as using it in the first place. Just go to "Settings" in your phone (after downloading that latest iOS update, of course), and scroll down to "Emergency SOS" in the third section from the top. Activate the "Auto Call" function, and you're all set.

But there's even more, if you want to take advantage of it. If you set up an emergency contacts list in the Apple Health App (which you access conveniently from the Emergency SOS page), those people will be immediately notified if you ever do have to contact emergency services.

You'll also have to decide whether to activate the "Countdown Sound" which, if you enable it, will play a warning sound to alert you when you're about to summon emergency services, according to Business Insider. That's useful if you're worried you might somehow call them by accident, but it's not so good if you've been confronted by an attacker, are in a domestic violence situation, or otherwise need to be discreet so as to not escalate the situation and make it even more dangerous.

That potentially negative point set off alarm bells for Caitlin Roper, from the women's rights group Collective Shout. "It's not without risk," she said, according to HuffPost UK. "If a woman should be caught trying to utilize this service in a domestic violence attack she may be in even greater danger." But it's worth noting that you have to activate the Countdown Sound — it doesn't work or go off by default.

And in addition to praising the undoubtedly forward-thinking innovation, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition Sarah Green told the site that her organization would also like to see Apple go a step further in protecting women in particular. This would include, for example, barring abusive men from using invisible tracking and surveillance apps. Apple didn't immediately respond to Romper's request for comment regarding whether it will ban these types of apps or add a service that could prevent a phone from being surveilled.

All in all, kudos to Apple for working to incorporate concrete safety measures into its products. It's quite possible that news stories about how this feature truly helped to save lives will start to crop up soon.

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