Two women were on their way home after a trip to Alberta when they got lost near McBride, a small village in British Columbia, Canada. On the drive back, an accident ended up closing the main highway, so the women checked Google Maps for an alternative route. Google Maps led them through a detour onto a service road in Holmes Forrest, which had only been “partially plowed” following multiple snowstorms. Not knowing this, the two women embarked down the road and made it around 20 kilometers before hitting a “wall of snow,” indicating where the plow had stopped, and gotten stuck.
Given that they were that far down a service road in a forest, there was no cell service available. One of the women, however, had an iPhone 14 and thought to use the new Emergency SOS via satellite feature. Using the iPhone 14, they were able to send a message and their location to an Apple call center.
Search and Rescue Teams' Reaction
The Apple call center then contacted the “Northern911” call center in Canada, which activated a call to emergency service teams in British Columbia. That final emergency services team received a “packet of information,” including the GPS coordinates, which they used to locate the two women. Search and rescue dispatchers, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the British Columbia Search and rescue team, and the Robson Valley Search and Rescue, were able to locate the two women using the GPS coordinates and helped them get the vehicle out of the snow and back to the highway.
Dwight Yochim, a senior manager with British Columbia Search and Rescue, believes this may be the “first use” of the new feature in British Columbia. Yochim said, “There’s no cell service there but one of them happened to have the new Apple phone that has the SOS in it and activated the SOS and to my knowledge, that’s the first use of the SOS in British Columbia. If they didn’t have this, what would have happened is eventually the family or their work would have said “hey, they didn’t show up” and so the search area would have been from wherever they were last seen to where they’re supposed to be, and that could have been several hundred kilometers.”
Yochim went on to say, “It’s the kind of thing that potentially may have saved their life. This is a game-changer. This technology has the potential of really helping us save lives and reducing the amount of time it takes to do that.”
Potential to Cut Down on Search Numbers
For context, Yochim estimates that his team does around 1,700 to 1,800 searches a year. Emergency SOS via satellite on the iPhone 14 has the potential to cut down on the number of searches significantly. “If we know exactly where the subject is, then all we have to do is go in and rescue them,” said Yochim.