In moments of emergency, every second counts. Many turn to voice-activated assistants like Alexa for immediate help, but can Alexa truly call 911? In this concise and informative guide, we unravel the capabilities and limitations of Alexa during emergencies, providing you with clear answers and vital information to ensure you are prepared when it matters most. Explore with us as we delve into the crucial topic of Alexa’s role in emergency situations.
Can You Call 911 On Alexa?
Alexa is not allowed to call 9-1-1 for you. The only way you can work around this is to buy an Echo Connect, hook it up to a splitter, and plug it into your phone jack at home. Just be careful about doing this with little kids around since they could end up placing a 9-1-1 call that does not need to be made.
As an owner of several Amazon Alexa Echo Dots (and a slightly paranoid parent of toddlers), I wondered this recently. I knew Alexa could ask Alexa to call my saved contacts, but would she be able to call 9-1-1? No, I did not actually try this myself since you should never call 9-1-1 for anything other than an emergency. But I did conduct some research.
As it turns out, within the United States, you cannot get Alexa to call emergency services.
This is largely due to FCC regulations that limit 9-1-1 enabled devices. At first, I was kind of confused as to why this was the case, but then I read more into the FCC’s legislation and requirements.
Alexa is classified as a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service by the FCC. Alexa must be connected to WiFi in order to perform calling functions, but not a phone line. This means that 911 operators have no way of identifying where you are making your call from over a VoIP.
However, there is a workaround: the Echo Connect.
Just be aware, you will need a splitter and will have to plug it into your phone jack. Let me explain how you can set this up for a 9-1-1 call.
FCC’s Regulations Regarding 9-1-1 Enabled Devices
As I mentioned above, the FCC has some fairly firm regulations regarding devices enabled for calling 9-1-1. 9-1-1 devices are required to provide a callback number and location data.
Could Alexa potentially do this? At some point, sure. As of right now, though, Amazon has elected to not do this. You will need to use your cell phone or landline in the event of an emergency.
How to Use Echo Connect to Dial 9-1-1
There is one workaround here. If you own the Echo Connect, you can connect your phone to an Alexa Echo Connect speaker, thereby turning it into a speakerphone that does not have the same restrictions as an Alexa Echo or Echo Dot.
Although the Echo Connect has technically been discontinued, you can still find them to buy online through sites like eBay and even Facebook Marketplace. Setup via the Alexa app for Android, iPhone/iPad, and the web is still supported on this device, too.
You will, however, need to buy a phone splitter and run it from the phone jack in your wall to the Echo Connect.
As soon as you have everything configured, you can tell Alexa to dial 9-1-1 for you. Just don’t do this unless you actually need to.
Setting Up Emergency Contacts Via Alexa
You might want to set up an emergency contact using Alexa. While this certainly isn’t the same thing as dialing 9-1-1, it can come in handy.
This contact can be a family member, friend, or even your doctor’s office. If you are in a bind, you can call them to assist until emergency services are able to arrive and step in.
Here is how you can set it up:
- Open the Alexa app on your Android, iPhone, or iPad.
- Tap on the Communicate tab located along the bottom of the screen.
- Tap on the contacts icon found in the upper right-hand corner.
- Open the “…” menu in the upper right-hand corner.
- Choose Emergency Contact.
- Follow the prompts to choose an existing contact or create a new one. Just know that you cannot add emergency services. Also, anyone you select will receive a notification stating that you have chosen them as your emergency contact.
You can always ask Alexa to ‘call for help’ or ‘call my emergency contact’ should you ever find yourself in need.
What is Alexa Guard?
Alexa Guard is a US-based service that, while it won’t call emergency services directly, will lend a little extra home security.
When you have this service enabled and say “Alexa, I’m leaving,” your Echo or Echo Dot will listen for sounds consistent with breaking and entering, such as shattering glass. It will also listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
How can I use Alexa Guard?
All you have to do is enable this ability on your Alexa device. Let Alexa know when you are leaving and arriving home again so that your device can monitor for potential threats and send you a notification on your phone.
Is Alexa Guard Plus worth the cost to upgrade?
You can subscribe to an annual or monthly plan known as Alexa Guard Plus. With this plan in place, you get enhanced audio detection capabilities on your Alexa device.
Your device will be able to pick up on talking, footsteps, and the sound of a door opening or closing. It can even use your outdoor security camera to trigger lighting or play the sounds of a dog barking if motion is detected outside of your home.
For some folks, the cost of this subscription is worth it for the peace of mind. You can even use it to call Amazon’s Emergency Helpline instead of defaulting to your set emergency contact.
In a real emergency, this could shave off some crucial response time from the professionals.
While you cannot call 9-1-1 from your Alexa device, there are a few workarounds. While using the Echo Connect would’ve been my default suggestion a few years ago, I now recommend that you invest in Alexa Guard Plus.
You pay a minimal monthly (or annual) fee for an extra buffering of home security. While this won’t exactly help you out in a medical emergency, it can come in handy if there is a potential break-in or if a smoke alarm is going off.