iPhone SOS alert sends California rescuers on trek through knee-deep streams

The SOS message was nothing new to the California rescue crew. It arrived via satellite through an emergency feature that is on newer iPhones.

This kind of mission is rapidly becoming par for the course for people in search and rescue.

“Another iPhone 14 save!” said rescuer Mike Leum of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in a Feb. 19 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The feature gives users a way to contact authorities even when stranded in an area where cell service is scarce or nonexistent.

And that is exactly what a hiker in southern California did after taking a wrong turn in the Angeles National Forest. Rescuers set out looking for the lost hiker on the Gabrielino Trail after receiving the message at about 7:50 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, according to a Facebook post from the sheriff’s department’s Montrose Search and Rescue Team.

The mission was a wet one. On what was already a rainy evening, rescuers waded through multiple streams up to their knees.

It took them an hour and a half to find the hiker, according to KTLA. All the while, they were able to stay in touch with him via satellite messages and tell him to stay put.

“We found him quickly and got him out safe,” Leum said on X.

The trek back with the hiker was another two hours through the same soggy conditions, KTLA reported.

Rescue missions initiated from iPhone satellite messages are something more and more rescue teams are seeing. In December, McClatchy News reported on a similar mission in Colorado.

Kimi McBryde of Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery told McClatchy News that she hopes this kind of lifesaving technology will become ubiquitous.

“It’s a game changer,” she said. “It’s providing more accessibility to the wilderness. Everyone has a phone.”

The alert also helped rescuers find a crashed vehicle that fell 400 feet off a cliff near Los Angeles in July, McClatchy News reported.

The SOS feature is only available on iPhone 14s and 15s. Users of those phones can text emergency services via satellite while off-grid with no cellular or WiFi coverage.

An iPhone user in an emergency can use the feature by first trying to call 911. If it doesn’t connect, send an SOS alert by tapping the “Emergency Text via Satellite” button.

You can also go to “Messages” to text 911 or SOS, and then tap “Emergency Services.” From there, tap “Report Emergency.”

The Angeles National Forest is more than 700,000 acres in Southern California northeast of Los Angeles.

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