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How To Do Emergency Call Shortcuts on Mobile Phones

Woman walking on street with cars

This article will outline how to enable emergency call shortcuts on mobile phones, which can be a useful feature to have if you ever feel that you’re in a dangerous situation.

UK Context

The case of Sarah Everard is likely to remain within the collective consciousness of people living in the UK for quite some time. On the 3rd of March 2021, the 33 year old female marketing executive left a friend’s home and walked along a road in south London at approximately 21:30, and as we’re now aware, tragically never made it back. As the police and journalists search various locations in Kent for evidence, and a Met police constable has been accused of her kidnap and murder, a charged discussion into the endemic of harassment, abuse and violence against women in the UK is underway. While this is not a new issue by any stretch of the imagination, the debate has been reignited by the horrific circumstances of Sarah Everard’s disappearance, and has emphasised the urgency for the UK government to enact reforms to make public spaces safer for women.

Women and Girls in Public Spaces

Based on a YouGov survey of over 1,000 women from UN Women UK, it’s now believed that the majority of the UK’s female population have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space (which can be largely be understood as unwanted or offensive sexual attention or remarks). In this survey, over 70% of the female respondents reported that they had experienced sexual harassment in public, while only 3% reported that they hadn’t experienced this sort of behaviour before. The true number of incidents of sexual harassment in public spaces is unknown, as many women and girls don’t report these incidents, often as they anticipate that they won’t be believed, or that nothing will be done about it.

While this data is UK-specific, violence against women (which can succeed sexual harassment in a public space if the situation escalates) is a global issue. According to estimates from a recent report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018, 1 in 3 women globally have experienced an incident of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, with approximately 736 million of the female population on average aged 15 and older having experienced either one or both forms of these.

While the discussion of safety on the streets tends to be focused on women and girls, these spaces need to be safer for everyone, as there are other groups to consider as well that are likely to experience a hate crime in a public space. For instance, according to a recent Stonewall study, 1 in 5 LGBT respondents reported experiencing a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months, while 2 in 5 transgender respondents reported experiencing a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months. Again though, the true figure of the number of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes in public spaces in the UK is unknown, as not all incidents are reported.

If you’re someone that’s concerned about their safety in public spaces, or you want to advise someone else, you may wish to take further action with a practical measure to help you feel safer. Read on to find out how to enable emergency shortcuts on a mobile phone, which is a way to alert the authorities if you’re in a dangerous situation.

iPhone Emergency Shortcuts

Your iPhone can share your real-time location with the police or ambulance services using a calling feature called Emergency SOS. With this feature, you can send a text message to an emergency service which includes your location with tracking of your movements in real-time.

Emergency Shortcuts on an iPhone 8 or Later Model

  • Hold down the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider comes up.
  • Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services. If you continue to hold down the side button and volume button, instead of dragging the slider, a countdown begins and an alert sounds.
  • If you hold down the buttons until the end of the countdown, then your iPhone will automatically call emergency services.

Emergency Shortcuts on an iPhone 7 or Earlier Model

  • Quickly press the side button 5 times. This will make the emergency slider come up.
  • Drag the emergency slider to call the emergency services.

If you call the emergency services by accident, you can press the Stop button, and then Stop Calling.

Emergency Shortcuts on a Samsung Phone

This feature makes it easy to notify a contact if you’re in an emergency. When it’s been turned on, you can press the lock button 3 times to automatically send out a message saying “SOS” followed by a link with coordinates of your current location. There are also options to add a photo and/or a voice message with the message to provide more detail of what’s happening.

  • Go to Settings, then select Advanced Features.
  • Next, go to Send SOS messages and ensure that this has been enabled.
  • Agree to the Terms and Conditions to set up the contact person.
  • Select a recipient from your contacts or create a new contact. You'll then need to add their mobile number so that they can be contacted.

If you have another type of Android phone that isn’t a Samsung, you can search the words “SOS” or “Emergency” into Settings manually to see how you can enable one or more of your phone’s emergency features. See below for an example of this on a OnePlus Nord.


While we can advise each other on how to take precautions to be safer in public spaces, the burden of responsibility should always fall on the perpetrators and not the victims. In an ideal world, we would not need to be providing this information, but realistically more progress needs to be made for women and girls to feel truly safe. In the media and in our personal conversations, we still ask questions about victims’ choices of clothing, routes they chose to take, why they were travelling at a certain time, why they were on their own and even questioning the validity of an allegation if the person making the accusation isn’t conventionally attractive. Until we as a society place the blame squarely on the shoulders of perpetrators, and women’s accounts are taken seriously, then women and girls will need to remain vigilant and continue to campaign for change.


Cover image by Rodan Can on Unsplash


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