How to set up an emergency contact on iPhone (and why)

You can add one or more emergency contacts to your iPhone so that they can be easily contacted (or contact you) in an urgent situation. It takes five minutes to set up, but it could be one of the most important settings on your device.

What is an emergency contact?

An emergency contact is a contact that is in your address book and has some additional permissions compared to your other contacts.

There are two reasons to set up an emergency contact on your iPhone. The first is that they appear as next of kin on your medical ID. This is accessible to strangers through your lock screen and contains information such as your name, allergies, blood type and (according to the setup) who should be contacted in an emergency.

You can access your medical ID by pressing and holding the power button and the volume up or down button until you see the Medical ID slider. You can also access it from the Emergency button on the passcode screen or by pressing and holding the side button (not the digital crown) on an Apple Watch.

If you get into a situation where someone wants to contact an emergency contact, they can easily do so from this screen without having to unlock your device.

The second reason to add emergency contacts is because those contacts will receive a message when you use the Emergency SOS feature on your device. This is accomplished by pressing and holding the power and volume down buttons on an iPhone, then sliding “Emergency SOS,” or pressing and holding the side button on an Apple Watch.

You can also bypass your device’s silent mode settings to allow a contact to sound an audible alarm on your device regardless of your settings. You can do this for any contact on your iPhone, regardless of whether they are set up as an emergency contact or not.

How to add an emergency contact on your iPhone

You can set up an emergency contact through a contact card or through the Health app on your iPhone.

Nominate an emergency contact with a contact card

Launch the Phone app, tap the Contacts tab, then select a contact. You can also tap the Recent tab and tap the small “i” button next to a contact’s name.

Scroll down on the contact card and tap the “Add to Emergency Contacts” button:

Add a contact to emergency contacts on iPhone

Choose a label that best describes your relationship, or tap Add Custom Label to add your own:

Define the relationship of an emergency contact

Your medical ID will open with your named contacts in the Emergency Contacts section. Tap Done to save your changes.

Add or remove an emergency contact with the Health app

You can also do this directly from the Health app. Launch the Health app, then tap your user icon in the top right corner followed by the medical ID:

Medical ID settings on iPhone

Tap Edit in the upper right corner, then scroll down to Emergency Contacts and tap the Add Emergency Contact button. Select a contact, followed by a label that best fits your relationship (or use Add Custom Label to define your own), then tap Done to save your changes.

Emergency contacts in the health app

You can also remove a contact from your list here by tapping the minus next to their name while editing your medical ID.

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How to activate the bypass of the silent mode for a contact

If you want incoming phone calls and messages from an emergency contact to be audible even when your device has been muted, you can turn this on for each contact.

Open the Phone app, tap the Contacts tab, then find the relevant contact. At the top right, tap Edit and tap the Ringtone or Text Tone button:

Set a custom ringtone for a contact on iPhone

Activate the “Emergency Bypass” setting in the window that appears:

Enable emergency bypass for an iPhone contact

You need to enable this for both text tone and ringtone independently if you want both to sound.

How to add custom ringtones to your iPhone

Also fill out your medical ID

Your medical ID can be invaluable during an emergency if you have certain allergies, health problems, or are on medication regularly. You can also provide additional information such as primary language and blood type.

Medical ID and emergency contacts aren’t the only things you can do with the Health app. Learn how to track your steps and share health data with family and doctors, and how an Apple Watch can help you get a better picture of your health.

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