Can Alexa call 911? How to set up Alexa for emergencies

If you’ve got an Alexa in your home, you can use it for more than just alarms and playing music. The device can help out in an emergency, allowing you to get in contact with help if there’s an unexpected crisis. In 2023, Amazon announced it was adding an Emergency Assist feature to the device, which is a paid service to help a user connect to an agent who will call 911 for them. The device can’t call 911 directly, but it can put you in touch with someone who can call on your behalf and give out key information to emergency responders.

If you don’t want to try Emergency Assist, you can also try setting up an Echo Connect box to your landline (if you can find one, as these products are no longer available) to call for you, or using an Alexa skill like Ask My Buddy. There are also other security features you might want to try out on your Alexa like Alexa Together, a subscription for assistance for older adults.

Set up Alexa Emergency Assist

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Alexa Emergency Assist is a subscription service from Amazon, costing $5.99 per month or $59 per year. If you have the service and say, “Alexa, call for help,” the device will connect you to an agent, who can then contact the emergency services for you. This feature is only available in the U.S., and could be helpful for those who don’t have a phone or who need hands-free help. When the call is placed by the agent, the emergency responders will see what device the request for help came from, and can access a pre-set saved emergency address, which helps them to find you if you need help.

The system can pre-save information such as access codes for gates to your home, or basic medical information such as any allergies you have, and this information can be sent on to the emergency services by the agent. It can also saved information about any pets which may be in your home, which emergency responders may need to know about.

The service can also automatically notify your emergency contacts, or notify you if your smart home system indicates a problem in your home like a carbon monoxide alarm going off so you can contact the emergency agent. This works by the device listening out for the sounds of a smoke alarm or a carbon monoxide alarm going off, then sending a SMS or push notification to your phone. There’s also a similar feature to listen out for the sound of breaking glass in your home, in case a window or door should be smashed, and you can get a notification for this too.

You can set up Alexa Emergency Assist by going to the page on Amazon’s website and following the subscription instructions from there.

This service is designed to replace the previous Alexa Guard subscription, so if you’ve been a Guard Plus subscriber then you should have been automatically moved over to Emergency Assist.

Call 911 with Echo Connect

Amazon Echo Connect
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Amazon’s Echo Connect is a seemingly failed product in the Alexa devices family that the company no longer sells. However, if you have one tucked away or you fancy purchasing one from a secondhand website such as eBay, it could be the perfect solution. Echo Connect was initially introduced as a small box that could be connected to your landline, allowing you to use your Echo devices as a speakerphone.

To set up Echo Connect, follow these steps:

  1. Plug your Echo Connect into an outlet near your modem or phone jack.
  2. If you need to plug in a standard telephone handset alongside Echo Connect, use a splitter adapter on the telephone jack to create two connections.
  3. Next, on your smartphone, open the Alexa app.
  4. Choose the Settings menu.
  5. Select Add Device, followed by Amazon Echo.
  6. Select Echo Connect to finalize the setup.

Once the above steps are completed, you can request that your Echo devices call any landline or mobile telephone number, including emergency service numbers such as 911. To place a call with 911 when Echo Connect is in place, say, “Alexa, call 911.”

Obtain assistance with Alexa Skills

Amazon Echo Input Portable buttons
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You can use alternative methods to obtain help, but they don’t call emergency services directly. Alexa skills such as Ask My Buddy and My SOS Family allow you to effortlessly contact other individuals in the event of an emergency. In this example, we will show you how to set up the Ask My Buddy skill for use with your Alexa device. Please remember this will not contact 911 or emergency services directly.

To set up your Ask My Buddy account:

  1. Visit askmybuddy.net to begin setup.
  2. If you do not already have an account, click the Register button.
  3. Fill out the requested information to register, including your first name, last name, email address, cell phone number, and password.
  4. Once registered, you will be prompted for your login information. Enter your email address and password to sign in.
  5. At the top of the page, select the Contacts tab.
  6. Enter any new contacts who you want to receive an alert. Press the Save Changes button when you are finished.
  7. You can now log out of the service or close your web browser.

Now that your Ask My Buddy account is created, we can add the skill to your Alexa device for easy access. Please note that the free version of Ask My Buddy will only alert up to five contacts in English, and you are limited to sending out 10 alert messages per month.

Ask My Buddy
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To set up Ask My Buddy with Alexa:

  1. Ask Alexa the following: “Alexa, open the Ask My Buddy skill.”
  2. Alexa will say she has sent a notification to your Alexa app, so proceed to your smartphone and open the Alexa app.
  3. On the Home tab, there should be a card that says Action Needed — Ask My Buddy. Tap it to continue.
  4. You will be prompted to sign in to your Ask My Buddy account.
  5. Once you have linked your account, Alexa will note that the link was successful. Click the Done button in the upper left of the screen.

Now that Ask My Buddy has been set up, you can ask Alexa for help by saying something like, “Alexa, ask my buddy to send help,” or, “Alexa, ask my buddy to contact Michael.” The service will now send a text message and call the contact on your list to alert them of trouble. It’s best to discuss a system such as this with a few individuals in advance so your contacts know what to do when they receive the alert.

Ask Alexa to call non-emergency numbers

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As another option, Alexa can call non-emergency numbers by merely asking. Again, Alexa will not be able to call 911 or emergency services, but it can reach out to one of your contacts and connect you via voice. If your Alexa app has access to your contacts, you can say something like, “Alexa, call James.” You can also ask Alexa to call a full number, such as, “Alexa, call 201-867-5309.”

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This post was originally published on Digital Trends

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