911 2-1

We reported recently on an Apple patent application for a ‘panic mode‘ on an iPhone, where using a specific finger on the Touch ID sensor could do anything from locking down the phone to calling 911 and starting audio and video recording.

There are pros & cons to the idea, of course, with one 911 operator saying that a similar Blackberry function has resulted in “thousands and thousands” of false emergency calls, each of which have to be treated as real calls for help until demonstrated otherwise.

But if we waited until someone manually dialled 911, it seems to me that there’s merit in some of the other ideas … 

For example, witnessing an accident or crime in progress can be a traumatic experience, and it’s not unusual for callers to be unable to provide an accurate location. Some provide only very vague locations – “somewhere on Main Street” – while others give the wrong location, each of which delays an emergency response.

If calling 911 automatically put a Speak Location button on the screen, you could press that button when asked for your location and have Siri tell the operator where you are, exactly as if you’d asked it ‘Where am I?’.

Interestingly, a note in AT&T’s Wi-Fi Calling service suggests that some 911 centers appear to have the capability to obtain your location electronically.


Similarly, audio and video evidence of a crime can greatly increase the likelihood of a successful prosecution. On ending a 911 call, the iPhone could ping and put a Start Video Recording button on the screen to prompt you to capture video. It would be sensible to put a prominent notice on that screen to record only if it doesn’t put you at risk.

Finally, in the case of a major incident, where it can be reassuring to let family and friends know that you’re safe, perhaps the iPhone could automatically identify those in the affected area and bring up a prompt to use a feature like Facebook’s Safety Check or pre-populate a text message with a ‘Just letting you know I’m ok’ message?

Do you think these features would be useful? Or have any other thoughts on 911-related functionality? Let us know in the comments.

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