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Can Alexa call 911? How to set up Alexa for emergencies
Amazon wants people to think of Alexa devices as a one-stop-shop for communication. You can often make outgoing phone calls on its Echo speakers, and if you have an Echo Show, there are multiple video calling options. But will Alexa dial 911 for you in an emergency?
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You can't ask Alexa to dial 911 or other emergency services directly, unless you have an Echo Connect hooked up to a landline phone. You can, however, set up a personal emergency contact, and turn on Alexa Guard for home security.
JUMP TO KEY QUESTIONS
Can Alexa dial 911?
Unfortunately, you can’t ask Alexa to call emergency services in most cases. In the US this is due to regulatory compliance — FCC rules require that 911-capable devices provide both location data and a callback number, which is theoretically feasible for Alexa, but something Amazon has opted not to implement. Whenever possible, you should use a cellular or landline phone in a serious emergency.
Using an Echo Connect to call 911
Amazon’s Echo Connect accessory is a workaround for these limitations. The product links an Echo speaker to a landline, effectively turning it into an unrestricted speakerphone.
While it’s officially discontinued, you can occasionally find preowned units on sites like eBay. Setup remains supported as well, though you’ll have to use the Alexa web interface.
You’ll need a splitter adapter for your phone jack if you intend to make calls from a regular phone alongside your Echo speaker. Once everything is configured, all you need to do is say something like, “Alexa, call 911.” Be careful about enabling this in homes with small children however — prank or accidental 911 calls could land you in trouble.
How to set up an emergency Alexa contact
If you don’t have a landline and an Echo Connect, the simplest alternative is to ensure you have an emergency contact attached to your Alexa account, such as a doctor, a loved one, or even your neighbor. In a pinch, that person can call emergency services and/or come to your aid until authorities arrive.
To add and use an emergency contact in Alexa, do the following:
- Open the Alexa app for Android, iPhone, or iPad.
- Tap on the Communicate tab at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap on the contacts icon (two people) in the upper-right corner.
- Open the triple-dot menu in the upper-right.
- Select Emergency Contact. If you don’t see the option, it might not be available in your region.
- Follow prompts to select an existing contact or create a new one. Note that you can’t add emergency services like 911, and anyone you select will receive a message informing them of your choice.
- If you ever need help, ask Alexa to “call for help” or “call my emergency contact.”
What is Alexa Guard, and how do I set it up?
Alexa Guard is a US-only service and won’t call 911 or other emergency lines directly. It does provide a layer of home security though, and for a fee, it can get you in touch with those lines indirectly. When Guard is enabled then toggled to Away mode (e.g. after using “Alexa, I’m leaving”), your Echo speakers will start listening for the sounds of breaking glass and smoke/carbon monoxide alarms. You’ll receive alerts on your phone, and linked smart lighting can be set to turn on and off to simulate your presence.
Amazon sells an upgraded service called Alexa Guard Plus, which costs $4.99 per month or $49 per year unless you’re already subscribed to Ring Protect Pro. This enhances audio detection to include things like footsteps, talking, and closing doors, and can use security cameras to trigger dog barking sounds if motion is detected outside. If intrusion sounds are detected indoors, a siren will play. If you’ve got a security system from Ring, Scout, or ADT, that can also be linked.
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Most importantly for our purposes, Guard Plus can call Amazon’s Emergency Helpline when you say “Alexa, call for help” instead of a personal emergency contact. A Helpline representative will talk to the appropriate emergency department or security provider once they have your information.
Here’s how to get started with either version of Alexa Guard.
- Open the Alexa app for Android, iPhone, or iPad.
- Tap the More tab at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap Settings.
- Select Guard. You’ll have to scroll down the list a bit.
- Pick Set Up Sound Detection, then follow prompts.
- If you want Guard Plus but already have the basic Guard active, go back to the Guard dashboard, then tap Finish Guard Plus Setup.
A final caution: you’ll want at least one Echo speaker within range of each alarm and entry point if you want Guard to be effective. The good news is that the technology is compatible with every dedicated speaker in the Echo lineup, including the Echo Dot, which costs $50 or less.
Frequently asked questions
Not really. Hypothetically you could use an Echo Connect and an Alexa routine to trigger 911 calls, but that would be pointless unless you were around to answer, in which case you’d want to dial yourself anyway. It would also risk legal trouble for abusing the 911 system.
No. Alexa speakers depend on voice commands for dialing, and typically play verbal or tonal feedback to let you know a command was received. While you could use the Alexa app on your phone, that would be redundant.
We hate to sound like a broken record, but no. While Amazon offers a senior aid subscription service called Alexa Together, it can only ever call the company’s Urgent Response team and personal emergency contacts, not 911. That’s true even if you have a compatible fall detection device.
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