Updated: July 29, 2021
This guide provides a thorough answer to a common Alexa question:
“Will Alexa call 911?”
The short answer is easy. Alexa cannot dial 911 out-of-the-box (for data privacy reasons we’ll explain below).
But that’s not the end of the story.
In this guide, we’ll look at 3 ways you can use Alexa to get help in an emergency. Two of these are workarounds that DO allow you to reach 911 via Alexa.
Summary: 3 Ways To Use Alexa For Emergency Help
For those in a hurry, here’s a quick overview of all three methods.
Note that the second column is an estimate of set-up difficulty for a non-techie (i.e., someone comfortable using a smartphone but having no voice assistant or smart home experience).
|Method||Diff?||911?||How It Works|
|1. Wi-Fi Calling||Very Low||No||
+ Make voice calls to your cell phone contacts (e.g,. "Alexa, call Bill"), even when 30+ feet from speaker
+ Push-button set-up within the Alexa app
|2. "OnStar"-Like Alexa Skill||Medium||YES||
+ Single voice command and loved one(s) are alerted by phone call, text, and email (simultaneously)
+ Paid tier ($5/mo) routes you to 911 as well
|3. Echo Connect Add-On Device||High||YES||
+ Amazon Alexa accessory that allows you to link your Alexa speaker to your landline phone
+ Great option BUT requires landline phone service
Why Alexa Cannot Call 911
As mentioned at the outset, Alexa cannot call 911 out-of-the-box.
According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines, all devices permitted to make 911 calls must be able to send the caller’s location info to emergency services.
Your mobile phone, for example, can call 911 because your carrier collects your location data and attaches it to any emergency calls you make.
What Alexa Can Do By Herself
So what can your virtual assistant do for you in an emergency?
Wi-Fi calls, for one. With just a simple voice command, Alexa can connect you to a doctor, loved one, caretaker, or anyone else in your phone’s contacts (more on that below).
And other than swapping your voice for your fingers when making the call, there’s nothing real different about Wi-Fi calls.
The person you’re calling won’t notice the difference, as your mobile number will show up on their caller ID (no matter which Echo speaker you call them from).
How To Make A Wi-Fi Call With Alexa
To make a voice call with Alexa, you can use either type of voice command below:
- Contact name (“Alexa, call Bob”)
- Ten-digit phone number (“Alexa, call 123-456-7890“)
To use the first option, you need to give Alexa access to your phone’s contacts. The Alexa app makes this a breeze thankfully.
See below step-by-step instructions:
Sample Use Case: Elderly Family Members
The ability to make long-range, hands-free calls can be great for seniors who live alone.
I myself have an elderly parent who lives alone.
And it’s comforting (for both of us) to know that if she has a fall, she can reach me or another family member hands-free from anywhere in her home.
Using A "Souped-Up" Alexa To Call 911
- An Alexa skill called “Ask My Buddy” (similar to OnStar)
- An add-on device called the Amazon Echo Connect
1. The "Ask My Buddy" Alexa Skill
First up is an Alexa skill called “Ask My Buddy.”
I’ll explain how it works in Part A below.
If it appeals to you, you can read set-up instructions in Parts B and C (otherwise, feel free to skip them).
A. How It Works
You add 5 emergency contacts to your account (name, phone, email)
When you need help, you give Alexa a single command (one of the two below)
- Alert one contact: “Alexa, ask my buddy to contact Michael”
- Alert all contacts: “Alexa, ask my buddy for help”
Alexa then alerts your contact(s) via all available methods simultaneously (phone call, email, and SMS)
Here is what the alert would look like:
B. How To Set Up Your Account
If this option intrigues you, here’s how to set it up. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
- Create an account on Ask My Buddy registration page
- Fill out the registration form (shown below)
- Finally, sign-in and select the Contacts tab. You can then choose up to 5 emergency contacts to receive your alerts
After this, you will have the option of joining their Premium tier ($5.99 per month).
The key benefit of the Premium tier is an added service called “Buddy Assist.”
Buddy Assist is exactly like OnStar. When you give her the command, Alexa will connect you to 24/7 emergency operators (in addition to alerting your contacts). These operators will quickly collect information about your emergency before patching in 911.
See below a comparison of the Free and Premium tiers:
- Price: $0
- Alerts: 10 per month
- Contacts: 5
- Language(s): English
- Price: $5.99 per month
- Alerts: 400 per month
- Contacts: 10
- “Send Help” with Reason: You can let contacts know the type of help you need. E.g., “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to send help. I have fallen and am on the floor“
- Buddy Assist: Alexa will also dial emergency dispatchers who can route your call to 911 (available in the U.S. only)
C. How To Enable The Skill
The final step is to enable the “Ask My Buddy” Alexa skill. To do so:
- Say, “Alexa, open the Ask My Buddy skill”
- Alexa will then send a notification to your Alexa app
- On the Home screen of your app, tap the card that says “Link Ask My Buddy account”
4. Finally, sign in with your “Ask My Buddy” login details and tap submit. If successful, you should see the below screen.
And that’s it! Feel free to test “Ask My Buddy” to confirm that the process works.
2. Alexa + Echo Connect + Landline
The second workaround involves using an add-on device, the Amazon Echo Connect, with a landline phone.
This add-on device connects to your phone jack and allows you to make phone calls on your landline phone through your Amazon Echo (Alexa) speaker.
By using your landline to make the call, you avoid the restrictions introduced by your Echo device.
I.e., you will have no issue calling 911 (to do so, you would simply say, “Alexa, call 911”).
(Note: Amazon no longer sells this product, but as of March 2021, there are a number of new and used models available on eBay and on Amazon Marketplace.)
[Bonus #3.] Using "Hey Siri" To Call 911
At the risk of alienating die-hard Alexa fans, it’s worth noting that you can also use Siri to call 911 hands-free.
To do so, enable “Hey Siri” (within your iPhone’s settings, under “Siri & Search,” as shown below).
Once enabled, you can activate Siri from a distance by using the “Hey Siri” voice command. Keep in mind that:
1. Hey Siri’s range is not as long as Alexa’s (roughly, 10 feet vs. 30 feet).
2. However, “Hey Siri” can be an excellent way to increase your safety on the road by helping you keep your hands off your phone
And that should do it for this guide.
Before you go, make sure to reward your A+ emergency preparedness with some equally high-tech laughs. For example, check out our guides to: