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Using an Apple Watch as an emergency tool could save your life on the road

I recently moved into a house with a small backyard with gravel. Desert landscaping and xeriscapes are preferred here in Palm Desert, and my backyard is no exception.

I was outside one night and bent over to pick something up and, for whatever reason, I fell. I wasn’t dizzy. I did not lose my balance but I fell face forward into the gravel and cacti. Ouch. Fortunately, only my hands and arms encountered the cactus and I came through relatively unscathed. But it got me thinking—I live alone and, although I am relatively healthy, what would happen if I were to fall and black out?

When my elderly mother lived alone, we bought her a medical alert system that included a lavaliere that she wore around her neck. She could push the alert button and it could detect a fall. It had 24-hour monitoring. Great, but she refused to wear the darn thing and it was expensive—$50 per month. 

I decided to purchase an Apple Watch that included several health monitoring capabilities, including fall detection. An Apple Watch with cellular and GPS can serve as an effective tool in medical emergencies. Not all Apple Watches offer GPS and an owner must have an iPhone to pair it with, but all in all, I am extremely happy with it. Why?

Apple Inc.

Features of an Apple Watch

  • Provides a wide array of apps, including health apps such as heart rate, ECG, blood oxygen, and activity monitoring.
  • Emergency/SOS alerts that call 911 directly. Many models include fall alert that calls 911 after detecting a fall and getting no response.  
  • It’s a mobile phone on your wrist that enables you to call or text using your voice. If there is an emergency you can speak to a 911 operator directly.
  • Models that include GPS can track your location in an emergency. This is how emergency responders find you. It is satellite-based so cellular reception is not required. 
  • Siri allows you hands-free driving. No fumbling with the phone on the road.

Does it work?

I will share with you my experiences so far. It isn’t perfect: moving boxes or hitting my arm on the door jamb has set off my fall alert. So did a fall when I slipped down the ramp of my Newmar toy hauler. It vibrated and beeped loudly and asked if I fell. I had the option to respond “No, I’m fine,” “Yes, I’m fine,” or “Yes, I need help”. If I didn’t respond, it would have alerted 911 and my emergency contacts to send help. I only had a sore bum when I fell working on my RV, but I could have just as easily hit my head and blacked out. The watches are water resistant and can be worn in the shower, which is a common spot for bad falls.

It is not perfect but, given its capabilities, I feel much more comfortable in my home alone, and alone on the road in my RV. I have an SOS with GPS capabilities. I keep thinking about that poor couple that got lost in Nevada with no cell service and the husband died while searching for help. If they had had an Apple Watch, they could have sent an SOS and it may have saved his life. 

Apple Inc.

The fall-alert/SOS feature is worth the cost

The cost upfront is high and it is important to note that Apple Watches with GPS and cellular are not compatible with ALL iPhones. I had to upgrade my iPhone 8 to an iPhone 13 to get the full features. This can add significant upfront costs. I wanted to upgrade the phone anyway and I got good trade-in value.

A top-of-the line Apple Watch with cellular and GPS can cost upwards of $800, but there are many less-expensive versions in the $300 range that give you the same emergency capabilities. It is far less expensive than many of the medical alert services offered.

I pay $10 per month to add my watch to my current ATT iPhone cellular plan, but I do not pay for emergency/SOS monitoring. I think this is a good deal for the features the watch gives me. If you get an Apple Watch, pay up for the GPS and cellular capabilities because they are worth it.

In addition, the Apple Watch saves me a lot of grief: I get a lot of spam calls on my mobile phone and I can look at my watch to see if a call is spam or if it is a legitimate caller. Also, I don’t have to carry my phone around with me all the time. I also can answer or send a text with my voice while driving. I love my watch.

UPDATE: Thomas D asked an important question — do you need a cellular connection for the SOS feature to work?  The answer is yes unless you have an Apple14 nearby. The current Apple watches by themselves do not have satellite capabilities which means you need a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. My watch has cellular/GPS and I have an iPhone13 so the watch would use its own cellular, the iPhone’s cellular or a Wi-Fi connection. Apple just came out with the Apple14 that does have SOS satellite capabilities so if you pair your watch with the new iPhone14, you would not need a cellular connection. My guess is that Apple will come out with a new watch with stand-alone capabilities. It’s not perfect but a pretty good tool.

An Apple Watch is not for everyone

You have to be comfortable with using its technology and you do need a compatible iPhone. It is also not a true medical alert monitoring system connected to a 24-hr. monitoring service. For elderly people, the 24-hr. monitoring may be necessary.

I am quite happy with my watch and feel safer with it on.

Do you have an Apple Watch? What is your opinion?

Here is a thorough discussion of the Apple Watch on the National Council on Aging website.

You can buy Apple Watches on Amazon, and at Apple, Best Buy, and other technology stores across the country.

##RVT1083

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Bonita Montgomery
1 month ago

https://www.intuitionstudy.com/
I got a kind-of free Apple Watch SE (first generation) by agreeing to participate in a brain study with this company. An Apple Watch has been on my wish list for awhile now, but sooo expensive. All I have to do is sign up with my iPhone X and do 100,000 worth of little tests over two years and I can keep the watch. It’s easy, I have over 70,000 just since May when I started the program. There are monthly “challenges” and several tests every few months. They are taking participants aged 50-86 now. I LOVE my Apple Watch for the reasons you went thru, also because it reminds me to get up off my behind and get some exercise occasionally. It’s so nice to be able to silence a reminder or alarm right on my wrist without having to dig around and find my phone in some pocket or another. I can use the watch to find my phone, too. Also, when I use the Maps app for navigation, I get a little buzz on my wrist in advance of an upcoming turn.Love it!!

Last edited 1 month ago by Bonita Montgomery
Janet
1 month ago

I’ve had my Apple Watch for about 3.5 years, love it and appreciate its features more all the time. I had a heart attack in 2019 and one of the features I love is the EKG feature. While it doesn’t tell you if you’re having a heart attack, it will tell you if you’re in sinus rhythm and whether or not it see an indication of A-Fib. I’ve had a couple of experiences (mostly stress and anxiety) where even though I was pretty sure I was fine and didn’t need to run to an ER, I felt a little “off” and the readout looked wonky to me. I am able to download the results and send them to my cardiologist to review and respond explaining what I’m seeing. Not to worry, I have no hesitation in calling 911 if I think it’s really crazy or feel really off. Sometimes, though, it’s anxiety and once I see the nice, regular blips of sinus rhythm and calm down, it’s all I need.

Thomas D
1 month ago

If you have NO cell service, will the sos work. I’d think not. I’m curious?

Karel Carnohan
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Thomas, here is what I understand: the current Apple watches by themselves do not have satellite capabilities which means you need a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. My watch has cellular/GPS and I have an iPhone13 so the watch would use its own cellular, the iPhone’s cellular or a Wi-Fi connection. Apple just came out with the Apple14 that does have SOS satellite capabilities so if you pair your watch with the new iPhone14, you would not need a cellular connection. My guess is that Apple will come out with a new watch with stand-alone capabilities. It’s not perfect but a pretty good tool. I am thinking of upgrading to the iPhone14 to gain the satellite SOS.

Thanks for asking the important question.

Karel

Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  Karel Carnohan

Good answer. The satellite feature is fantastic and I’m saving up to get a new phone with that feature.

Bob p
1 month ago

Daughter lives and breathes Apple. DW and I have iPads and have had more bad things than good things with Apple. When my iPad lays down there’ll not be an Apple to replace it.

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

If you replace it with a similar product from another company, it will be very interesting to hear how that experience goes. I am an Apple fan, but I’m genuinely curious about that, too. Apple is pricey, no doubt.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Very interesting and helpful information; thank you! It will not work for my 91-year-old mother (she and her android phone have an uneasy truce). However, DW and her 80-year-old mother have the same model iPhone. Plus, her mother is marginally capable with the iPhone (or communication technology in general). So, this may be a real possibility for her. Thanks again for the information! Being aware of available alternatives is great, whether the alternative is chosen or not.

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago

You do NOT “need a compatible iPhone” with a current model Watch. You do need access to one briefly for the initial set-up.

Bob M
1 month ago

If you have a apple watch and wear it all the time. You should get a protective cover for the watch face. They scratch easy. I’m careful with mine and don’t wear it all the time I got mine scratched. If you have your cell phone with you always do you need a watch plan for the SOS? Plus make sure your cell phone provider covers where you go. Had to dump AT&T because over time their reception on my lot got poor.

Scott R. Ellis
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob M

You do not need a “watch plan” nor do you need a cellular-capable watch for any of the features mentioned . . . if you’ll always have your phone nearby.

Sally wynn
1 month ago

I love my Apple Watch and feel safer with it.

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