If you’re buying an Apple Watch Series 4 for an older person who might fall…

Apple’s announced that the Apple Watch Series 4 could detect a fall and contact family and emergency services if the wearer didn’t respond promptly after the fall. This was a huge selling point for those with friends or family over age 65 as falls are a major health hazard at that age. I expect that many Apple Watches of that generation will be gifted during these winter holidays precisely because of this feature. For easy access, here’s Apple’s support article on what the feature does and how to set it up.

Use fall detection with Apple Watch Series 4

If Apple Watch Series 4 detects a hard fall, it can help connect you to emergency services if needed.

Here’s how it works

If Apple Watch Series 4 detects a hard fall while you’re wearing your watch, it taps you on the wrist, sounds an alarm, and displays an alert. You can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by pressing the Digital Crown, tapping Close in the upper-left corner, or tapping “I’m OK.”

Message that "It looks like you've taken a hard fall."

If your Apple Watch detects that you’re moving, it waits for you to respond to the alert and won’t automatically call emergency services. If your watch detects that you have been immobile for about a minute, it will make the call automatically. After the call ends, your watch sends a message to your emergency contacts with your location letting them know that your watch detected a hard fall and dialed emergency services. Your watch gets your emergency contacts from your Medical ID.

Some countries and regions have multiple emergency service numbers. For these countries, Apple Watch will call the number associated with ambulance services.

How to make a call

To call emergency services, drag the Emergency SOS slider in the alert.

How to end a call

If you call emergency services, you can end the call when your call is finished or if you no longer need emergency care:

  1. Tap the End Call button.
  2. On the End Call screen, tap Yes.

What happens if your Apple Watch detects that you’re immobile

If your Apple Watch detects that you’re immobile for about a minute, it begins a 15-second countdown, while tapping you on the wrist and sounding an alert. The alert gets louder, so that you or someone nearby can hear it. If you don’t want to call emergency services, tap Cancel. When the countdown ends, your Apple Watch automatically contacts emergency services.

When the call connects, your Apple Watch plays an audio message that informs emergency services that your Apple Watch detected a hard fall and then it shares your current location as latitude and longitude coordinates. The first time the message plays, the audio is at full volume, but then the volume is reduced so that you, or someone nearby, can talk to the responder. The message continues to play until you tap Stop Recorded Message or the call ends.

Wrist Detection must be turned on for your watch to automatically call emergency services: Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch, tap Passcode, then make sure that Wrist Detection is turned on.

When are falls recorded

Falls are automatically recorded in the Health app, unless you reply that you didn’t fall when your Apple Watch asks. To check your fall history, open the Health app on your iPhone, tap the Health Data tab, then tap Results.

Emergency SOS options on your iPhone.

Turn fall detection on or off

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then tap the My Watch tab.
  2. Tap Emergency SOS.
  3. Turn Fall Detection on or off.

If you’ve entered your age when you set up your Apple Watch or in the Health app and you’re age 65 and over, this feature automatically turns on.

Apple Watch cannot detect all falls. The more physically active you are, the more likely you are to trigger fall detection due to high impact activity that can appear to be a fall.

Derek Parker's Medical ID in the Health app.

Set up your Medical ID and add emergency contacts

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone, then tap the Medical ID tab.
  2. Tap Edit.
  3. Enter your date of birth and other health information.
  4. To add an emergency contact, tap the green plus icon under emergency contacts. Tap a contact, then add their relationship.
  5. To remove an emergency contact, tap the Remove icon next to the contact, then tap Delete.
  6. To make your Medical ID available from the Lock screen, turn on Show When Locked. In an emergency, this gives information to people who want to help.
  7. Tap Done.

You can’t set emergency services as an emergency contact.

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