What happens if you’re in an emergency, you’re alone in your home and you can’t reach your cell phone or landline? It’s a question that many seniors and caregivers are asking themselves.
But if you have a smart speaker like an Alexa device, whether it’s an echo show, an echo dot or any other compatible echo device in your home you may use it to call for help.
So, can Alexa be used to call 911? – The Alexa device can call 911 through the paid version of the Ask My Buddy Skill. It can also call 911 using a landline or Voip service with an Amazon Echo Connect device which is no longer being sold at Amazon buy you can look for a used one.
Although you need these add-ons to enable Amazon’s Alexa to call to 911 – it’s certainly an easy and inexpensive way (especially using the Ask My Buddy Skill) to be safe with an easy method to call out in case of an emergency.
Alexa’s Capabilities and Limitations During an Emergency
|Aspect||Alexa’s Capability and Limitations|
|Directly call 911||Alexa cannot directly call 911. It requires additional add-ons.|
|Call emergency services||Alexa can call phone numbers in your contact list, including emergency contacts.|
|Activate emergency skills||Alexa can activate emergency-related skills like Ask My Buddy or SOS Family.|
|Provide emergency information||Alexa can provide general first aid advice or pet health information through specific skills.|
|Detect intruders||Alexa cannot detect intruders or provide physical protection.|
|Control home security systems||Alexa can integrate with home security systems for alerts and monitoring.|
|Adjust room temperature||Alexa can adjust the thermostat to provide comfort.|
|Record conversations||Alexa may inadvertently record conversations but can be managed through privacy settings.|
|Offer fall detection||Alexa does not provide fall detection capabilities.|
|Offer wearable devices||Alexa does not offer wearable devices like Life Alert.|
|Provide GPS capability||Alexa does not have built-in GPS capabilities.|
Please note that the table is a general overview, and specific capabilities may vary based on device models, configurations, and the availability of third-party skills.
It’s important to refer to official documentation and consult Alexa-enabled device manufacturers for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
What Happens if You Say Alexa Call 911?
But what DOES Alexa do if you ask her to call 911 if you don’t have these add-ons?
When you utter those words to Alexa she will respond with something like “I can’t place that call. Please dial emergency…”
In order for the emergency 911 service to work – it needs to identify a callback number and your location – as of right now, that is not capable of any smart speaker devices.
In order for this technology to work, an emergency call infrastructure would have to be created and supported by technology companies providing the Internet service.
BUT – that does NOT mean that you can’t use Alexa for emergency calls. Alexa can make phone calls to your contact list, whether it’s a landline or a mobile number. There are two ways that you can make that call.
- To call a specific person’s phone number on your phone’s contact list simply say “Alexa, call (name of your contact).”
- To contact multiple contacts use the Ask My Buddy skill to contact multiple people on your contact list.
You can also set up an Emergency Contact on Alexa as well.
- Open the Alexa app on your phone
- Tap on the More option at the bottom of the screen
- Tap on Settings
- Scroll down a bit and tap on Communication
- Scroll down a bit and tap on Manage Contacts
- Tap on Emergency Contact
- Follow the prompts to add your Emergency Contact
Once this is completed, you’ll be able to say “Alexa, call for help.” or “Alexa, call my emergency contact.” and the person that you chose will be contacted.
NOTE: It’s a great idea to also have a Vial of Life set up in case the senior does have Alexa call 9-1-1. It’s free and gives emergency responders critical information so they can help the person – even if they are unconscious. Read more about the Vial of Life here.
What is Alexa’s Ask My Buddy Skill?
One of the best features Alexa offers for seniors is the Ask My Buddy Skill. With the free version you can assign multiple “buddies” to a list and once you activate the skill, Alexa calls all the folks on your list. You can put up to 5 people on your list at no cost.
This is a great tool to use in an emergency situation.
How to Use the Buddy Skill
To activate the buddy skill, you simply give this simple voice command, “Alexa, ask my buddy to send help.”
How to Set Up Your Buddy on Alexa
- The first thing to do is to go to askmybuddy.net and register. It’s free if you have fewer than 5 contacts and use 10 or fewer notifications in a 30-day period. From there, there are very minimal monthly fees.
- Open the Alexa app on your mobile phone
- Tap on the hamburger menu in the top left corner (the 3 short horizontal lines)
- In the dropdown box tap on “Skills & Games”
- Tap on the magnifying glass icon in the top right and type in “buddy”
- Choose the Ask My Buddy skills
- Follow the instructions to register and set it up
About the Premium Tier Buddy Skill
In addition to the free version of this great skill there is also a paid version which is currently $5.99/month. You can read more about it here.
With this paid subscription you can add 5 more contacts to your list (so that would give you a total of 10 contacts) and it will also call out to 911.
Now – it’s not a PERFECT program by any means – so my recommendation is that if you are a fall risk and have multiple medical issues – I would strongly recommend a medical alert device.
The Alexa smart devices and their skills, like the Buddy one, are great backups but because they are still new – it’s not a good idea to rely on this entirely.
My SOS Family Skill
Another good option is the SOS Family skill that gives you unlimited number of contacts on your list and can send an voice phone call, a text or an email to them when you activate it with your voice. There is a monthly fee which I believe is less than $5.00 per month.
How To Set Up Alexa For Emergencies
Besides the Buddy Skill for 911 calls, you can also use the Alexa Guard skill as well.
To set up Alexa for emergencies, you can follow these steps:
- Download the Amazon Alexa app: You can download the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet from the App Store or Google Play Store.
- Set up your Echo device: If you haven’t already set up your Echo device, you’ll need to do so by plugging it in and following the instructions in the Alexa app.
- Enable Alexa Guard: Alexa Guard is a feature that can help keep your home safe. To enable Alexa Guard, open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Guard > Set Up Guard. Follow the instructions to set up your Guard preferences.
- Add emergency contacts: You can add emergency contacts to your Alexa app so that Alexa can contact them in case of an emergency. To add emergency contacts, go to Settings > Account Settings > Emergency Contacts. Add the name and phone number of each emergency contact.
- Set up voice profiles: If you have multiple users in your household, you can set up voice profiles for each user. To set up voice profiles, go to Settings > Your Voice.
- Test Alexa’s emergency features: To test Alexa’s emergency features, you can say “Alexa, call emergency services” or “Alexa, ask for help”. Alexa will then call the emergency services or your designated emergency contacts.
Remember that Alexa is not a substitute for emergency services. If you are in a life-threatening situation, you should always call 911 or your local emergency services.
Can Alexa Be Used As a Life Alert?
Although there are multiple ways that people can use Alexa as their personal assistant., what most don’t realize is that you can also use it as a life alert type of device for those instances of emergency.
Of course it’s not exactly like a medical emergency device so it’s not going to give you the full protection that a separate accessory like a medical alert device can but it does provide some very helpful safety features that seniors can take advantage of.
Let’s compare what Life Alert can do to what Alexa can do.
|Easy to use||Yes||Yes|
|Multiple units that can be used in any room||Yes||Yes|
|Used to contact for emergencies 24/7||Yes||Yes|
Types of Emergencies Alexa Can Help You With
In addition to being able to make a hands free voice call to someone, Alexa can also assist you in other types of emergencies.
Here are some scenarios of different types of emergencies and how Alexa can assist.
If You Are Confronted with an Intruder
Amazon Alexa can’t fight off an intruder for you but you can begin talking and telling Alexa what the intruder looks like. Or even their name if you know them.
All your voice commands that you say to Alexa are recorded and are kept in a file under your account until you go in and delete those recordings. These recordings can be used by the police to help identify your intruder.
Read the story about the New Mexico man, Eduardo Barros who was caught beating his girlfriend when a smart speaker called for help.
The other thing you can do is to set up the Intruder Alert skill (although you do have to have this already set up so that you can use it if an intruder breaks in.) To use this skill you will also need the Echo Flex and also the Motion Sensing adapter that you attach to the bottom.
Here’s a video showing you how it works.
Once the Intruder Alert skill has been set up – all you have to say is Intruder Alert (or whatever command you set up) and then Alexa will go ahead and do what you set the skill to do which could be…
- turn the Alexa enabled lights on
- shout out something like “Get out, the police are on their way.”
- blare out an alarm sound
These will hopefully scare away your intruder and give you a chance to call 911.
Using Alexa as an Additional Home Security System
The Alexa Guard skills allows you to use Alexa to alert you if it detects the sound of an alarm (like a fire alarm or burglar alarm) and even the sound of breaking glass.
Some Alexa devices can also pair with the Google Nest video doorbell so you can see and respond to whomever is at the front door without opening it.
If Your Pet Becomes Sick
What happens if you can’t get a hold of your veterinarian and your pet seems ill? Well, if it’s not an emergency and you are just seeking some information, you can try using the MyPetDoc skill on Alexa.
Did you know that MyPetDoc is the world’s first veterinarian-driven AI? Yeah, it provides answers to your pet health questions.
It has two modes: one for asking a question and getting an answer right away from their licensed veterinarians; or if you want more advice on what might be wrong with Fido and need someone who can listen in real time then say hi! They’re available 24 hours per day so don’t worry about missing them out when something goes awry in between vet visits.
If You Need First-Aid Advice
The Mayo Clinic First Aid skill provides quick answers for dozens of everyday mishaps and other situations that may arise. Whether it’s an ouchie or something worse, the instructions are clear and easy-to-follow. It takes just one tap on my icon to get lifesaving help from our team of experts right when you need it most!
If the Temperature in the Room is Too Hot or Too Cold
Although not technically an “emergency” if you or a senior loved one has recently broken a hip (like my next door neighbor just did) and you can’t easily (or at all) get up to change the thermostat to be more comfortable, you can use Alexa to control your thermostat.
Of course, you need a smart thermostat set up in order to use Alexa with it but once it’s all set up, it can really be a great thing.
Can Alexa Record Conversations in a Room?
There are times that Alexa will record what you are saying without your knowledge. This happens because she thought she heard her name.
This of course can be really creepy, but Amazon claims they only send those voice clips off to humans for “grading” when it’s absolutely necessary.
The “grading” system is designed to improve Alexa if an incorrect response was given and the customer would like assistance in saying what he or she really wanted- not just some random person listening on!
I will leave it up to you to decide if the great things that the Alexa voice assistant device can do for you outweigh any privacy issues that it may have.
Other Cool Things Alexa Can Do
There are so many other wonderful things that Alexa can do like sending a text message (bet you didn’t know that!) and I encourage you to check them out! Here are some articles we’ve written that may shine a light on all the ways that Alexa can give you a helping hand when you need it.
- 27 ideas on what seniors could ask Alexa
- How Alexa can help caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients
- 28 Alexa skills for older adults
- Is Alexa a good gift for older parents
- 12 Alexa products for the home
- Alexa for blind seniors
- How Alexa can help those with dementia
Alexa devices are a great way to help you stay connected with your loved ones and make it easier for you to do things like make emergency phone calls. But we do recommend that it be used as a backup to a medical alert device for most seniors.
Check out the many different types of Alexa devices – whether you use an echo show, an echo plus, the Echo dot or whatever else Amazon comes up with – make sure to investigate how it can help you.