Whether we’re out exploring the frosty trails with the pup or taking a road trip to a secluded cabin in the woods, safety is something that is always in the back of our minds. We all know that technology can help but off the grid, too? I’ve been an iPhone user and Apple Watch  fan for many useful reasons since it came to the market in 2015. Needless to say, it quickly became part of my everyday life. And when it came to safety, I recently discovered even more reasons why I can’t leave home without it.  

I recently upgraded to the Apple Watch Series 9 along with the iPhone 15 Plus. The safety features  on the devices will come in handy for home and away, should I ever need them. Hey, it’s still winter here, let’s not forget. I won’t let the unusual warmer temperatures fool me. We know Canadian weather…it can be spring-like one day and down-right freezing the next. But that won’t stop us from exploring!

Here are a few of the safety features that can offer peace of mind for road-trippers and wanderlusters at home and away! Did you know about these?

Crash Detection:

Designed to detect car crashes – severe impact from front, sides, and rear while in a passenger vehicle, both Apple Watch and iPhone will sound an alarm and display an alert. The Apple Watch will tap you wrist and chime to check in with you with a message on the screen. You will then have to option to make an Emergency Call or dismiss the alert if you are okay. If you do not respond to your watch, or iPhone alert, emergency services will be contacted after a 20-second delay. Your Apple Watch and/or iPhone will also send a message to your emergency contacts (if you’ve set this up) to share your location and the crash detection. Your pertinent medical info can also be shared with first responders if you’ve set that up as well. More details here


Fall Detection on Apple Watch:

We worry about us, and our family members, slipping and falling on slippery grounds and walkways this time of year. The Fall Detection on the Apple Watch can detect a hard fall and connect to emergency services. If you’ve fallen, the watch will tap you if it senses impact. It will then sound n alarm and display an alert. From there you can choose to contact emergency services. If you feel okay to get up and move on you can simply dismiss the alert. If you’ve seriously fallen and unresponsive for over a minute, it will make the call. The Apple Watch will send messages to your emergency contacts along with your location and that your watch had detected a hard fall and a call to emergency services has been made. What also gives peace of mind when travelling abroad is if you’re immobile, the Apple Watch will choose a single emergency contact to dial. More details here

Also, for iPhone 14 or later models, this feature will search for emergency services where available via Emergency SOS via satellite system if you happen to be outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage.

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Exploring Alberta. Photo credit: Libby Roach

Emergency SOS with Satellite:

This feature is one that really gave me peace mind since we travel frequently. We sometimes venture to unexpected and breathtaking parts of our world. There were several adventures where we barely encountered other humans. Learning that my iPhone has Emergency SOS connection via satellite even off the grid gave me peace of mind. This handy feature connects the phone via satellite so the user can text emergency services, share location with friends and family even if you don’t have cellular or wi-fi coverage.  Trying to locate a satellite is pretty intuitive. Also, better if you’re in an area that has minimal obstructions. Raise the iPhone with the Emergency SOS feature on the screen in the air with a clear sight to the skies above. Move the iPhone around slowly and it will search for the satellite to connect with.

Through the satellite connectivity you can also call 911 or other emergency services. Your iPhone will route through other networks.  If it doesn’t go through, then use the text feature by tapping the Emergency Text via satellite to connect. Your iPhone will guide you through prompts.

When you’re connected the iPhone will start a text conversation and will have the ability to share critical information like location (including elevation), any emergency contacts, medical ID (if set up), and even your iPhone battery level.

Highly recommend testing it out (don’t worry, the demo won’t actually call out to emergency services). Learn how to test this feature here.

Just recently, on January 3, 2024, a stranded sledder on Owl Head Mountain in British Columbia alerted emergency services using Emergency SOS via Satellite on iPhone. Shuswap Search and Rescue snowshoed up to assist the stranded person and shared that the feature helped pinpoint the location cutting the search “by hours”.  Link here for the story in the news. 

Here’s a great way to understand how it works…

International Emergency Calling:

The Apple Watch can even call local emergency services when you’re in another country. And in some cases you don’t even need to have cellular service. You can find out which countries or region support this here

What Else Is Useful:

Medical ID: I have this set up on my iPhone and without hesitation. I’ve saved critical medical information including allergies, blood type, medication I take daily, and emergency contacts. The information can be accessed by first responders available even on a locked screen – and without access to anything else on my iPhone. 

Driving Focus: Keep your concentrated while on the road to silence (or limited) Text Messages and other notifications. You can even ask Siri to read aloud any replies if you need so you’re hand stay on the wheel. You can also set up important contacts phone numbers to allow them to come through only if you have CarPlay or a car Bluetooth system on. 

Check In & Find My: this handy quick feature allows you to let your friends and loved ones know you’ve arrived safely at your destination. You can also set up so they can see if for some reason, your battery is low on your iPhone as well as your location or if you even have cell reception, and haven’t check in. Our family members including grandparents and our kids all have the Find My feature on at all times so we can check if everyone is where they should be. 

Download Off-Line Maps: We all know how we can enter regions that have little or no cellular reception or Wi-Fi but did you know you can save map information and directions on your iPhone for when you’re offline? Go to the Maps App to save an area to use when you’re on the road. You’ll be able to save details like turns and estimated times to get where you need to go. 

Compass: For explorers we all know how handy it is to have a compass to help guide us. I discovered this is also on my Apple Watch along with great information and handy features like the ability to backtrack to help find your way. Especially handy for those who enjoy hiking and worried about getting disoriented. 

Apple Watch series 9 - Sonya - safety - travel

BY THE WAY…what should you do if you accidentally call Emergency Services?

In the past, I admit I had accidentally butt dialled 911. Embarrassing, yes. I don’t believe it’s that easy to accidentally dial anymore since the Emergency SOS feature will do a count-down before placing the call. But if you happen to connect (like, if your toddler is playing around with your device) here’s what you should do. DON’T HANG UP! Wait until a responder answers, and then explain if you don’t need help. The dispatcher will be doing their job in ensuring that the connection wasn’t a mistake. Your Apple Watch will still ask if you want to send a message to your emergency contacts. Then, you can text NO to end the text.

There’s a lot of great health and safety features here for travelling whether it’s abroad or just venturing down the street. Be sure to check the exact iPhone or Apple Watch models that offer the features!

I’m looking forward travelling soon and to hopefully NOT using Crash Detection or Fall Detection anytime soon…but learning about all of these features offer me peace of mind, just in case.

*This post is not sponsored. Apple has provided devices for review purposes.