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How to call an emergency number if your iPad display is broken

Calling an emergency number when your iPad display is broken is something I’d hope you’ll never need to do. It’s not as straightforward as if you had a phone along, and it might not even work in all situations.

Keeping your iPad in an appropriate case— whether that is an iPad mini 6 cover, an iPad Pro 12.9 4th generation are, or an iPad 12.9 case— is one way to keep your display always in good working order. But let’s face it, sometimes the unexpected happens. Maybe the screen took all the impact of a car crash at 120 miles per hour,  or maybe you and the iPad just fell 50 meters off the side of a mountain. Life is unpredictable.

An iPad with a broken display isn’t much good until it’s been repaired by your local AppleCare representative. Even calling an emergency number may or may not work, depending on your situation. An iPad is not a phone, even if it’s the cellular version. Still, there are times when you might not have any options. Here’s what you need to know about calling emergency numbers on your iPad, and what you need to do ahead of time. 

How to Call an Emergency Number if Your iPad Display is Broken

There are two ways you can call an emergency number on your iPad. The first works if your iPad is on WiFi, you’ve set it up as an alternate way to pick up your phone with continuity/handoff, and your phone is nearby. 

In this case, all you need to do is ask Siri to call 911, and she will. Using Siri is a great way to get around a broken display, as you don’t need to see anything on the screen to be able to function. 

If your lucky stars aren’t lined up well enough to let you do that, you can still use any VOIP app like Skype if they are set up on your phone. Again, ask Siri to call 911 on Skype, or the alternative service you prefer. 

Don’t have a VOIP and don’t have continuity/handoff set up, or maybe you set it up but left your phone at home? Think of someone close to you that you can count on, then ask Siri to send them a message telling them you’re in trouble and ask them to get you help. Don’t forget to send a location pin as well. Siri can manage all that for you.

Of course, in both of these situations, you do need to have Siri set up to be listening to you and ready to respond to your phone call commands. That’s something you’ll want to do when you’re setting up your new iPad.  Go to settings, then to Siri, and ensure that 'Access on locked screen’  or ‘Allow Siri when locked’ is set to on.  You’ll also want to ask your phone to listen for ‘Hey Siri’

None of these ways to dial an emergency number are foolproof, so it’s best to always have your phone along if you anticipate you might need emergency services. Your iPhone will work fine for emergency contact even if the screen is shattered into a thousand pieces. 

How to Call an Emergency Number if Your iPhone Display is Broken

If you have your iPhone rather than your iPad along with you on your emergency you’ll have an easier time calling 911— and that’s even if your iPhone screen is broken. Calling emergency services isn’t dependent on your screen at all. If your iPhone has Face ID, just follow these instructions:

  1. Hold down the side button and one of the volume buttons (your choice). Keep both buttons down.
  2. An emergency SOS slider will appear, but if your display is broken you might not see it. You should hear a warning sound and a countdown. When the countdown finishes, your iPhone will call emergency services and provide them with your location as furnished by your phone’s GPS.

These instructions work with an iPhone SE, 2nd generation or later, and with the iPhone 8 as well. If you’ve got an older phone, you can call emergency services by clicking both the side button and the Sleep/Wake button five times, then dragging the emergency SOS slider if your display allows you to do that. 

If the five button way seems easier to you, you can visit the Settings of your Face ID enabled iPhone and choose to initiate an emergency call with five presses of the side button. Make sure you do this before your emergency happens! 

Putting an emergency call through in this way doesn’t just notify the police. After you’ve made your call, your iPhone will send a message to each of your emergency contacts letting them know that you’re in an emergency. Each of your contacts will also receive as much location information as your device has been able to glean. 

This method of emergency calling is one you’ll want to teach to everyone you care about— significant other, best friend, or any children that are in your care. If they were ever in a compromising situation, it allows them to call emergency services without even pulling their phone out of their pocket. You’ll also want to check if you have any emergency contacts set up, and if you don’t, choose a few trusted people who you’d like to nominate for that role. 

Let’s hope you never run into the kind of situation that leaves you trying to call emergency services on your broken iPad or iPhone, or blind folded with your phone in your pocket. Still,  if you end up in that state, at least you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to make that call!