January 29, 2023

In what appears to be the first reported deployment of Emergency SOS via Satellite, a snowmobiler in Alaska was successfully rescued when stranded in an extremely remote area.

Alaska State Troopers received an alert from the Apple Emergency Response Center in the early hours of yesterday morning…

The Alaska Department of Public Safety submitted a brief report.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on December 1, 2022, Alaska State Troopers were notified that an adult male traveling by snow machine from Noorvik to Kotzebue had activated an Apple iPhone Emergency SOS via satellite on his iPhone after becoming stranded .

Working with local search and rescue teams, the Apple Emergency Response Center and the Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue Coordinator, NWAB SAR dispatched four volunteer searchers to the Nimiuk Point area directly to GPS coordinates provided by the Apple Emergency Response Center.

The adult man was located by the voluntary search team and transported to Kotzebue. No injuries were reported to emergency services.

The report does not name the problem that caused the man to be stranded. Mechanical failure and the snowmobile getting stuck are two obvious possibilities.

MacRumors reports that state police officers were impressed with how well the system worked.

Soldiers who assisted in the rescue were “impressed with the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in the initial alert,” with the Emergency SOS feature via satellite designed to ask multiple questions before an emergency occurs Warning is sent to expedite rescue operations.

Apple activated the system in the US and Canada just weeks earlier after it was first announced during the iPhone 14 keynote.

The Emergency SOS system via satellite is activated automatically when you try to call 911 from any iPhone 14 model and cellular service is unavailable.

Apple offers a demo mode to familiarize yourself with the feature so you’re prepared should you need to use it in an emergency.

  1. open that Settings app on your iPhone 14.
  2. Swipe down and select Emergency SOS.
  3. Swipe down, under Emergency SOS via satellite, tap Try the demo.
  4. Follow the instructions.

The function is made possible by a new radio chip in the latest iPhones. It works just like standalone emergency locators like Garmin’s inReach Messenger. Garmin first introduced the service in 2011 and said this October that the system has provided emergency assistance to 10,000 people in its 11 years of operation.

The company provided data on these incidents and identified the top five activities that required emergency satellite communications:

  1. Hiking / backpacking
  2. Drive
  3. motorcycling
  4. Climbing/Mountaineering
  5. Boating

It is said that injury was the most common reason for using the system.

  1. injury
  2. medical problem
  3. vehicle accident
  4. Stranded/stuck
  5. vehicle problem

An interesting aspect of Garmin’s report is that the service was often used to help other people, not the device owner. This suggests that Apple’s Satellite Emergency SOS feature is likely to save the lives of more people than just iPhone 14 owners.

In addition to the US and Canada, the service is scheduled to launch in France, Germany, Ireland and the UK later this month. Other countries are likely to follow next year.

Photo: Tyler Moore/Unsplash

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