The iPhone’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature has proven to be a pivotal resource for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in numerous rescue operations. Initially met with skepticism, the feature has now gained the department’s full endorsement, especially after its crucial role in a recent Canyon Falls, Tujunga rescue where a hiker was saved after a trail collapse.
Steve Goldsworthy, the LASD’s SAR Technology Director, admitted his initial doubts to Backpacker magazine, highlighting concerns about potential misuse.
However, over a year since the feature’s introduction, he now deems it “a complete game changer”. Goldsworthy praised the feature’s precise GPS positioning, which is invaluable in remote areas lacking cell service. He cited the Pacific Crest Trail’s rugged terrain, where rescues are common due to its high peaks and seasonal snow and ice conditions.
Mike Leum, LASD Assistant Director, reported that Emergency SOS via Satellite has been central to over a dozen rescues. Its key advantage lies in providing immediate notification to emergency services, significantly enhancing survival chances.
This feature has directly contributed to saving lives in several instances. Its two-way communication capability allows for crucial information exchange, aiding in efficient and effective rescue operations.
Despite initial concerns about false alarms and deliberate misuse, LASD staff observed that technological updates have improved the feature’s ability to differentiate genuine emergencies from false alarms. An amusing anecdote was shared about nearly launching a full-scale rescue for an iPhone user who was merely low on fuel, illustrating the learning curve associated with new technology.
A year after the feature’s launch, the LASD team has shifted from skepticism to advocacy, with a desire to see similar technology integrated across all mobile devices. Currently, Apple offers two years of free access to this service for new iPhone owners, a benefit extended to three years for iPhone 14 users. Future costs for the service, post-free period, remain undisclosed.
As technology continues to evolve, the integration of advanced features like the iPhone’s Emergency SOS via Satellite into everyday devices underscores the potential of digital innovations for enhancing public safety and emergency response capabilities.