As Jordan McIldoon lay dying after the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, a bartender named Heather Gooze tried to figure out who he was.
When McIldoon’s phone rang in his pocket, she picked up and asked the caller what McIldoon’s name was, she told the CBC. Searching Facebook, she found the 23-year-old from British Columbia, then his girlfriend and mother.
But there’s an easier way for good Samaritans to find your loved ones and crucial medical data quickly in case of emergency. Both iOS and Android have features allowing users to post information that can be quickly accessed via your phone’s lock screen.
On iPhones and iPod Touches, the feature is called Medical ID; it launched with iOS 8 in 2014 (it’s not available on iPads). Inside the Health app, you can list your full name, birth date, medical conditions and medications, blood type, emergency contacts and other information.
Once you’ve filled in the information, if you enable “show when locked,” it’ll be accessible to users — such as emergency responders — who can’t unlock your device.
Newly released iOS 11 offers other ways for iPhone users to call for help or pull up Medical ID information if they’re in trouble. In the settings app, a new setting under “Emergency SOS” allows you to set it up so that you can quickly access a phone’s emergency functions by holding down the volume and lock buttons on the phone, or by hitting the lock button quickly five times. It also disables Touch ID and Face ID, meaning your phone will require a passcode to open.
Android devices also feature an emergency contact function, although the large number of companies making devices — each putting their own little spin on the software — means that it may differ from phone to phone.
Google announced a feature with Android Nougat in 2016 called “Emergency Information,” which should be under the “Users” tab in settings. But a spot check of two Android phones (an LG V20 and a Samsung Galaxy S8) running Nougat couldn’t find such a setting.
Instead, emergency info on both phones was editable in the Contacts app. On the Galaxy S8, editable info included emergency contacts as well as medical conditions and medications, allergies and blood type.
Both phone platforms rely on one thing to work, though: you. The systems aren’t automated, so if you want first responders and well-meaning others to be able to help you in case of emergency, spend a few minutes now to fill in the info.