When Police Minister Bheki Cele recently announced the annual crime statistics, it again became abundantly clear that for all the good there is in our country, crime – and especially serious crimes like murder and rape – is still a scourge that South Africa needs to eradicate.

Many smartphone users don’t know that these little devices come with their own SOS services, letting a specified contact know if you are in any kind of trouble. Here is how to set up an emergency contact and how to use the emergency SOS function on your iPhone or Android device.


The iPhone’s emergency feature was first introduced with iOS 11 and gives iPhone users the option to notify emergency services and a specific contact if they need assistance.

To set up an emergency contact on your iPhone, launch the Health app on your device, tap on the Medical ID tab, and then tap on “Edit” in the upper-right corner. Tap on “Edit Medical ID”. Under “Emergency Contacts”, tap on “Add emergency contact”. You will now be able to select a person from your contact list and specify the relationship you have with this person.

To trigger the SOS feature in the case of an emergency, iPhone 7 and earlier users need to rapidly press the power button on the right side of the phone five times, while people using the iPhone 8 and newer models will need to simultaneously press and hold the power button on the right side and one of the volume buttons on the left.

A slide bar allowing users to immediately place an emergency call will appear on the screen when they trigger the SOS feature, after which the call will go through to emergency services, whilst an SMS with your location will also be sent to your emergency contacts. If you are in a situation where you are unable to swipe on the screen, notifications will automatically be sent if you don’t cancel the SOS alert by choosing the cancel option on the screen. This is useful if you, for instance, have your phone in your pocket and don’t want to alert perpetrators that you are using it.


To set up an emergency contact on your Android device, go to your phone’s settings and tap on “Advanced features”. Scroll down to “Send SOS messages” at the bottom of the screen and tap on it. When you turn this feature on, you will be required to add an emergency contact. Choose someone you can trust from your contact list by tapping on “Select from contacts” – a maximum of four people can be added.

When triggering the SOS alert, your device will take a picture and video with both the front and back cameras, while also including a five-second audio recording of the environment you are in.

On Android devices, the SOS alert is triggered when users rapidly press the power key on the phone three times, after which an SMS will immediately be sent to the selected emergency contacts. This message will include the pictures and audio, together with GPS coordinates of your location. Take note that you need to make sure SOS alerts are enabled in “Settings” in order for this functionality to work.

While no one wants to be caught in a dangerous situation, setting up SOS alerts on your mobile device is a simple way to quickly alert the authorities and friends and family if you need any kind of assistance quickly.

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