Two women were recently stranded in British Columbia and were successfully rescued thanks to Apple's Emergency SOS — and it may have been the first such rescue in the area.
On newer Apple devices, such as the iPhone 14 lineup, Apple added a safety feature that helps people contact emergency services using a satellite connection. One of the women did have an iPhone 14 when the pair got lost on December 23, according to Times Colonist.
The women were traveling back to Alberta, Canada, when they noticed a highway was closed due to an accident. Using Google maps to find an alternative route, they decided to go through the Holmes Forest Service Road.
But the road was only partially plowed, and the women made it to where the grader had stopped.
"Then it was basically a wall of snow and when they tried to get through it, they got stuck," explained Dwight Yochim, senior manager with BC Search and Rescue.
Yochim said they were about 12 miles down the road, stuck in the snow without knowing where they were, and out of cell service range.
"There's no cell service there but one of them happened to have the new Apple phone that has the SOS in it and activated the SOS and to my knowledge, that's the first use of the SOS in British Columbia," he said.
After the women were able to use the feature, RCMP and Robson Valley Search and Rescue used the GPS location to form a strategy and figure out what happened and concluded that the women may have gone up the logging road.
"They found them, pulled their vehicle out and got them turned around and back on the way," said Yochim. "It's the kind of thing that it potentially may have saved their life."
He also said that without Emergency SOS, it may have taken the team over a week to find the women.
BCSAR has been in contact with Apple and will conduct webinars for SAR managers and grassroots team leaders so that everyone knows what to expect with Emergency SOS via Satellite.
Other rescues with the feature
Emergency SOS has helped saved other lives, too. For example, in an incident in December, Emergency SOS saved a man in a remote part of Alaska after he got stranded, alerting Alaska State Troopers to his location.
Working with local search and rescue teams, the Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue Coordinator dispatched four search volunteers to the GPS coordinates provided by the Apple Emergency Response Center. Fortunately, the man was not injured.
Back in April, Emergency SOS also saved a snowboarder in Switzerland. On a solo trip at about 10,000 feet altitude, Tim Blakey fell into a hidden crevasse in the snow.
Despite an iPhone battery life of 3%, he could use Emergency SOS to contact emergency services. Rescuers found him and took him to the hospital for an injured ankle.