What would happen if you needed urgent care, but couldn’t communicate with first responders, for example, as a result of being unconscious? People with serious known conditions, including those prone to seizures or that have an implanted device, might wear a bracelet or necklace explaining their medical situation. For everyone else, how will emergency teams find out your blood type, allergies, or whom to call? One of the easiest solutions is to put this information on your phone and make it accessible from the lock screen.
If you have a smartphone, it’s really easy to do. Just as importantly, however, you should know how to find this information for someone else and alert their emergency contacts. I’ll explain how to set it up first and then show you where to find it on almost anyone’s phone.
How to Add Emergency Information to an iPhone
With an iPhone, you can make a lot of emergency information available from the lock screen: medical conditions, medical notes, blood type, emergency contact information, and more. Here’s how to add it:
1. Open the Apple Health app, which comes preinstalled on all devices running iOS 8 and later. This app can’t be uninstalled.
2. At the top right, tap your profile photo.
3. Choose Medical ID. Tap Edit.
4. Under Emergency Access, make sure Show When Locked is toggled on, so that you see green.
5. At the very top of this page, there’s a spot for a profile photo. Put in a recent picture of your face. It’ll help emergency responders know that they’re looking at your information.
6. Below that are several fields: medical conditions, medical notes, allergies and reactions, medications, blood type, organ donor, and so forth. Fill in as much information as is relevant to you. If you have no known allergies or aren’t taking medication, it still helps to write “None” or “None known” so that medical personnel don’t assume you’ve overlooked this information.
7. Scroll down farther and you’ll see the next step is to assign at least one person as your emergency contact. You can assign more than one. Those names and numbers must be listed in your Contacts app. Otherwise, you won’t be able to import them into the Health app. I’ll explain in the next section how and when your phone contacts those people.
8. At the top right, press Done to save your info.
How to Use Emergency Information on an iPhone
Now that you have your information set, you need to know how it works both for yourself and for anyone else you may need to help in an emergency.
From the lock screen—when you can see the call to enter a passcode—it says Emergency in the lower-left corner. Tap it, and a dial pad appears with a Medical ID link at the bottom. If you press Medical ID, all the emergency information is visible.
There’s another way to make an emergency call and alert all the listed emergency contacts of the phone’s location. Apple calls it Emergency SOS. It’s designed so that you can use it quickly and immediately, even if you need to hide the fact that you’re making the call.
There’s one really bad part about SOS: You have to know which phone you have in hand, as the instructions are different for iPhone 7 and earlier (they all have a round Home button below the screen) and iPhone 8 or later (the screen extends to the very bottom with no visible button).
For iPhone 8 and later: Press and hold the side button plus the up or down volume button until an Emergency SOS slider appears on screen. Slide your finger on Emergency SOS to call local emergency services. If you need to hide the phone or can’t operate the screen, continue holding down the buttons instead. A countdown begins and an alert sounds. At the end of the countdown, the phone automatically dials emergency services.
For iPhone 7 and earlier: Press the side or top button quickly five times. You’ll see an Emergency SOS slider on the screen. (In India, you only have to press rapidly three times, and then a call goes out automatically.) Slide your finger on Emergency SOS to call emergency services.
After the emergency call ends: The iPhone now sends a text message to all emergency contacts listed in the Health app, unless you choose to cancel it. The message contains the phone’s current location, even if Location Services is off; the phone automatically turns it on temporarily when you use the SOS feature. If the phone’s location changes, the contacts receive an update via text.
How to Add Emergency Information to an Android Device
Many Android devices have an emergency contact info you can enter into the phone’s settings or in the contacts app. Where it is will depend on which phone and version of Android you have. In all likelihood, it will be something like this:
1. Go to settings > Users and Accounts (or Users) > Emergency Information. If you can’t find it, there’s a chance it’s under My Info, if your phone has that option.
2. Select Edit or Edit Information.
3. Hopefully, you see a bunch of fields for your emergency medical information, such as name, blood type, medications, allergies, and so forth. Fill out this section as thoroughly as you can. For medications and allergies, if you have none, it’s better to write “None” or “None known” than leave them blank. That way, medical professionals will know you didn’t simply overlook these fields.
4. Next, look for a place where you can select your emergency contacts. It might be below all the fields; it might be in a second tab; it might be in your contacts app. Whatever the case, someone must be in your contacts app before you can assign them as an emergency contact. Make sure their information is updated in your phone.
5. Android devices let you easily add any message to your lock screen, which is a great place to put really important medical information, in case people don’t know where to find your full medical information. To add a line to your lock screen, look in your settings for something called Screen Lock or Lock Screen Message. There you can add custom text that will be visible on your lock screen.
How to Use Emergency Info on an Android Device
If there’s someone in need with an Android phone, here’s how you would pull up their medical information and emergency contacts. As with an iOS device, locating the information in an Android device is quite easy if you follow these incredibly simple steps.
1. From the lock screen, swipe up.
2. Select Emergency, followed by Emergency Information.
As long as the phone has emergency information available and the person has entered it, you should be able to dial their emergency contacts even with the phone locked.
You can also call the local emergency number when you swipe up and select Emergency.
Emergency Info Hack Job for Any Smartphone
In the event your phone doesn’t have a way to make emergency information accessible on a locked phone, there is one hack you can do easily to get around it. Create an image with the information and use it as the wallpaper on your lock screen.
Using any app for note-taking, writing, or drawing, write down all the emergency information you want someone to see. Make it fit on one page. Keep the margins comfortable. Make sure the type isn’t too small. Think about all the other text on your lock screen, such as the time and date, and make sure your text won’t get blocked by it.
Finally, take a screenshot of your note and use the resulting image as the wallpaper for your lock screen. It’s better than nothing!