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Ooma Blog

How to Dial 911 Using Siri on Your iPhone

By Dennis Peng|Tuesday August 20, 2019

Siri could save your life. With a simple voice command, you can make a hands-free 911 call, even if you can’t reach the phone.

The stories of Siri’s life-saving abilities have already made headlines:

  • When a single Dad flipped his Jeep in the Nevada desert, he didn’t know where his phone was, so he started screaming for Siri to get help.
  • While in his apartment, a pro-biker became paralyzed from the neck down due to a burst blood vessel. His iPhone was just 10 inches away, but he was unable to press the home button. His only way to get help was with a Siri voice command.
  • When a paddle boarder was being blown out to sea, she used Siri on her Apple Watch to call for help. Without a lifeguard on duty, the Harbormaster responded to the local emergency and reached her in less than 15 minutes.
  • A New Hampshire man escaped a burning house, but when he reached for his phone, he couldn’t dial because of the burns. Siri helped him make the 911 call.

Are you prepared for an emergency? Here’s what you need to know about using Siri to dial 911.

 

calling emergency services with siri

 

How to Call 911 Using Siri

The following voice commands can be used with Siri to dial 911:

  1. “Hey Siri, call 911”
  2. “Hey Siri, call an ambulance”
  3. “Hey Siri, call emergency services”
  4. “Hey Siri, dial 911”

Following your command, Siri will respond that it’s “Calling Emergency Services in five seconds.” This gives you a chance to cancel the call if it was unintentional.

use voice commands to call 911 using Siri

Five Things to Know about Making High-tech 911 Calls

Now that you know how to call 911 using Siri, let’s review five things you should know about these high-tech emergency phone calls.

1. Some Voice Commands Are Easier to Say

Consider a situation where you’ve had a stroke. It’s going to be far more difficult to say the word “ambulance” than to say “911.”

Not only could your emergency result in unexpected physical limitations, but it’s also helpful to keep commands simple since you’re relying upon Siri to understand you accurately. Even in the best of circumstances, Siri can go awry. Thus, while the voice command “call an ambulance” will work, it may be more helpful to remember the phrase, “call 911.”

2. The Ability to Automatically Locate Emergencies Matters a Lot

The location of your emergency is a crucial part of a 911 call. After all, first responders will have a difficult time helping you if they can’t find you.

Typically, when you dial emergency services, location information is automatically transmitted behind the scenes, as well as verbally confirmed with the dispatcher. In the era of landlines, the automatic location transmission was highly reliable, but cell phone technology has made it increasingly difficult to locate emergencies.

As John Oliver once quipped about the technological disparity, the Domino’s app may be better able to know your location than a 911 dispatcher receiving a call from a cell phone.

3. Your Technology May Determine Whether Your Call Can Be Located

A wide set of contributing factors influences whether an emergency call made from a mobile phone can be located accurately. This includes the emergency services infrastructure within your city.

Notably, a 911 call made with Siri could have an advantage over one made with an Android. As of iOS12, the iPhone is able to approximate a “mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points” and subsequently share that information with 911 centers.

In a similar high-tech initiative, advanced 911 service from internet-based phone provider Ooma Telo has landline-level accuracy by sharing your self-provisioned physical address with emergency responders (where available) so that they can come right to your door. When 911 is dialed from an Ooma-connected home phone, automatic location services could support babysitters who don’t know the address, elderly relatives who have failing memories, or young children who may not be able to relay information accurately.
 

Ooma also provides a Remote 911 tool for those using Ooma’s free calling app. If you know there’s an emergency at home while you’re not there, calling 911 from the Ooma app would be treated as though your emergency call was coming from your home’s location rather than the physical location of your mobile phone. See Dialing 911 for Emergency Services for a full explanation about how Ooma’s 911 service compares to traditional 911.

4. Advanced Emergency Tools Can Automatically Alert Your Family

Ooma Telo’s advanced 911 has another advantage. With 911 alerts, family members can have real-time notification if 911 is dialed from an Ooma-connected device. Every second matters, and Ooma’s 911 alerts can help you act quickly.

Whether you decide to receive notifications via text message or email, you’ll also have the opportunity to set up a custom message on your account. For example, you can automatically include the details about a child’s medication or a doctor’s phone number.
Ooma Telo advanced 911 

5. Siri Isn’t Your Only Option for Calling 911 via Voice Command

Smart assistants such as Alexa or Google can also give you hands-free access to dial an emergency number. While they may not be able to call 911 on their own, pairing your Ooma Telo with your Amazon Echo or Google Home could expand your hands-free 911 access.

Thus, in addition to Siri, you could also get help by saying, “Alexa, ask Ooma to call 911,” or “Hey Google, ask Ooma to call 911.”

Learn more about how to respond to emergencies with Ooma and how Ooma Telo can keep you connected to what matters the most.

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Is Google Voice heading to the Google Graveyard? The calling app has been around since 2009, and yet it seems as though it’s always been on the verge of being discontinued. The uncertainty has many people looking for a Google Voice alternative. 

It’s important that your calling and texting platforms are reliable, full-featured and can support the way you want to communicate. Let’s review the predictions about Google Voice’s future and what you should look for when choosing a Google Voice alternative. 

Google Voice’s Uncertain Future

Headlines about Google Voice comment that it’s “not dead yet.” That might be as optimistic as we can get about the calling app. It spent years being neglected by Google, and it’s not clear if Google is fully committed to it as a priority app.

The Verge said in 2019, “Voice’s interface is a bit old-fashioned (despite a relatively recent update).” It added, “and (this being Google) there is always the chance that the company will suddenly decide to get rid of it.”

The path of Google Voice has never been clear. For a while, there was talk that Google Voice would move to Google Hangouts. However, Hangouts is currently in its sunset, and Google is expected to retire the app in June 2020 or later. Users will be moved to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.

Ars Technica reported earlier this year that Google may be working on another iteration for communication tools. “Google is working on yet another messaging app,” said the article. The new app would merge the functions of apps like Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet and Google Voice. 

“If this service launches, it would be Google’s tenth messaging app,” said Ars. “Google’s inability to stick with a single messaging platform and its penchant for shutting down services has left its users very suspicious of any new messaging app from the company.

The uncertainty of Google Voice may have you looking for different solutions. Luckily, there are plenty of great VoIP options available that offer strong sets of features and reliable service at little to no cost. 

Here are the top seven things to consider when choosing an alternative to Google Voice. 

1. Does your Google Voice replacement have 911 Service?

It’s easy to assume that 911 will always be there when we need it. However, an emergency 911 call made with Google Voice will fail. 

This lack of emergency access has been a major drawback of the service. When looking for a Google alternative, prioritize a digital phone service that supports 911 calls

Keep in mind that there is usually a required government fee for consumer access to 911 service. This varies based on location, but it’s commonly a few dollars per month. While avoiding all fees is preferable, paying a few dollars a month is worth it because it could quite literally be the difference between life and death. 

When seconds matter, you should be able to easily get help. You may also find that some providers go beyond traditional emergency access. For example, advanced 911 service from Ooma can automatically notify your chosen emergency contact if a 911 call is placed from an Ooma-connected phone. You can also connect Ooma to your smart home so that Alexa or Google Home can call 911 via a voice command if you’re unable to dial.

2. Does the Google Voice alternative offer free U.S. calling?

Google Voice isn’t the only app that offers free unlimited calling and texting with U.S. phone numbers. 

When choosing your service, look for an app that isn’t limited to calling other users. A better choice is a VoIP service that gives you free access to other phone numbers. Functionality should include free talking and text messaging with any landline or mobile phone, rather than only the ability to connect with other users. 

Also, look for device flexibility that lets you use the service on any mobile device via an app. Providers typically support mobile apps on both iOS and Android. Make sure you look closely at the details to see what type of calls you can make on the app. For example, the Verizon Digital Voice app is only for account management, not for calling and texting. 

Google Voice worked with Obihai to allow you to use a phone handset similar to a landline. Some VoIP services also offer the same type of access via a home phone or desk phone. With the right provider, you can access your phone line via a mobile device or a home handset. 

Also, prioritize a contract-free phone plan that gives you the service you want without any commitment. If you’re managing multiple phone lines, look for providers that let you forward your calls so you can update your settings as needed. 

3. Is customer support available with your new service?

Another key downside of Google Voice is its lack of direct customer support. For individual users, your best option to get help with Google Voice is to post to the community forum.

At best, this means that troubleshooting is inefficient. At worst, you could be left with unresolved problems that you can’t resolve. 

Some providers have limited customer support. For example, magicJack’s basic phone service limits support to chat and email support. It’s funny that users could be getting phone service from a company that you can’t call for help. 

Your Google Voice alternative can fix this. Your phone service should offer full customer service access across a range of service times that include nights and weekends. 

4. What’s the reliability and voice quality of your new service? 

An advantage of Google Voice is that you’re using a service from a well-known company. You may not be aware of the reputation of alternative VoIP providers. Even if you’ve heard of companies like Skype or Vonage, you may not fully know their service quality. 

A good approach is to look for a VoIP provider that has consistently been ranked highly. Reviews and rankings from publications like PC Magazine can help. Not only does it provide overall rankings, but you can review scores on individual factors such as reliability, call quality and ease of use.

5. What are your phone number options with your new VoIP provider?

Today’s VoIP providers offer options for getting a new local phone number or porting your existing phone number to the provider to continue using your current number. For businesses, there’s even the option to get a toll-free number. 

With the right provider, all of these phone number options can be free. 

Some companies will use these phone number preferences as a way to add on fees. Even though we may be willing to pay to get the phone number we want, it’s not necessary. Google Voice isn’t the only provider that offers free phone service and a free local number. 

Some VoIP providers will link your new service to your existing phone number. This can be a short-term solution if you want to add-on a second line to your current devices. However, you can run into problems if you change devices. It’s also problematic if you’re looking to cut the cord and use your VoIP service as your primary phone number. 

To avoid these problems, look for a standalone service that is portable and can be used any way you want. 

6. How does the VoIP provider handle international calls?

For U.S.-based VoIP providers, it’s common to have free unlimited U.S. calling paired with low-cost international calling. However, if international access is a priority to you, it’s important to double-check the rates and access parameters. 

Some providers may not offer any international calling, which is the most limiting option. Other providers have plans that require a long-term contract or options like Grasshopper require an up-front deposit before you can make international calls. 

VoIP providers typically have low-cost international calling with rates that are lower than traditional phone providers. However, there can still be a wide variety among providers. A rate comparison can help you clearly see which is the better deal. Why should you pay eight cents per minute to call Italy when you can pay two cents per minute? 

7. Are small business VoIP options also available?

You may be only focused on residential phone service now. However, it can be helpful to know if the provider also offers small business options. 

There are two reasons why this is helpful to know.

First, if a provider also offers business phone service, it shows their level of commitment to communication technology. A lightweight provider may only offer small residential service. As a result, they may not be investing in the R&D needed to provide high-quality business phone systems. This means you could have lower-quality service.

Second, today’s startup culture means that you may be interested in a small business phone in the future. If you’re already using a great provider, it’s easy to add on a small business line. This can make it easy to launch a part-time catering service, shadetree mechanic company or digital services brand. 

Small business VoIP can offer smart technology at a very low cost. A virtual receptionist (sometimes called an auto-attendant) can provide callers with pre-recorded messages with information like business hours or today’s menu. You’ll have the ability to make conference calls, get an 800-number, record calls and more. 

 

Learn more about Ooma’s free home phone service to discover if it can help you replace Google Voice.