Alexa to the rescue: Can the voice assistant help you in a medical emergency?

Alexa’s lifesaving potential is real – here’s how

In today’s tech-focused world, we find ourselves increasingly reliant on smart devices – such as smart speakers and displays – to help us streamline our daily routines. But can these devices go beyond the realm of convenience and become a lifeline in medical emergencies?  

Let’s look at Amazon’s devices, such as its renowned assistant, Alexa. While there are many skills you can enable to help you improve your health – such as yoga and meditation – the voice assistant also has some hidden talents that could come in handy if you find yourself in an emergency situation.  

Emergency surgery may not quite be on the cards yet, but Alexa does have skills that could be extremely useful if someone in your household needs urgent help. 

An Amazon Echo Smart display displaying Alexa's emergency CPR skillCredit: Saga Exceptional
Alexa can help take you through the steps needed to perform CPR

Can Alexa call emergency services?

No 999 calls just yet

The short answer is no. If you ask Alexa to call 999, she will tell you, politely, that she can’t place the call and suggest if it’s a life-threatening situation to use your phone instead.    

This may be something that changes in the future though. Back in 2019, The Sunday Times reported that Scotland Yard was developing technology that would work with voice-assistants such as Alexa and Google to call emergency services in a crisis.

While nothing has been launched yet, it’s worth keeping an eye out if it does become a feature in the future 


What is Alexa’s emergency contact?

Call a trusted contact

While you can’t call 999, you can set up your Alexa device so that it calls an emergency contact when you say “Alexa, call for help”. 

Alison Reddihough, co-founder of personalised book company Tickled Moon, has set up the emergency contact option for her 92-year-old mother, after she had a couple of falls at home.  

“My mum lives alone and although she is pretty independent and generally well, she has some mobility issues and has had some falls in the past,” she says. 

“She has Alexa-enabled devices in her lounge and bedroom, so it seemed like a great idea to set up the Alexa emergency contact. Should she fall and not be able to move, being able to ask for help would mean I could be there, or get help for her, pretty quickly.”  

“I set it up with my mum when she got one of her Alexa devices. I was setting up other things in the app and stumbled across it and thought it was a great idea.” 

While thankfully they haven’t needed to use it yet, both mum and daughter are happy and reassured having Alexa there as an emergency back-up. 

“Knowing that the option is there for my mum to get help quickly, should she need it, gives me great peace of mind,” says Reddihough. 

Her one piece of advice when setting it up is to remember to test it out regularly to make sure it still works. 

“The main issue for my mother is for her to remember that the feature is there and what to say, so it’s good to remind her,” she says.  

How to ask Alexa to call for help 

As well as being able to ask Alexa to call for help, other phrases you can use to contact your emergency number are: 

  • “Call my emergency contact.” 
  • “Call my contact for help.” 
  • “Call my help contact.” 
  • “Help.” 
  • “I need help.” 

How to set up your Alexa emergency contact

All it takes is a couple of clicks

To set an emergency contact, you need to make sure you have allowed calling and messaging on your Alexa device. To do this open the Alexa app. Click on Communicate. Then verify your mobile phone information, granting permissions for calling and messaging.  

You’ll also have a chance to import your mobile phone contact list here when prompted. If you just want to add your one emergency contact, rather than all your contacts, you can follow the instructions here. 

Once that’s done you can then set up your emergency contact in five steps: 

  1. First, open up your Alexa app on your device.
  2. Then tap on ‘Communicate’ to get started.
  3. Look for the contacts icon and tap it.
  4. Next, you’ll see a menu icon (three vertical dots) – go ahead and tap it. From there, select ‘Emergency Contact.’
  5. Follow the simple on-screen instructions that pop up.
  6. After you’ve completed the set-up, your chosen emergency contact will receive a text message letting them know they’ve been added as someone you will reach out to in case of an emergency.

If you change your emergency contact’s information in your phone, it won’t automatically update in Alexa. To make sure you’ve got all the correct emergency contact details on your device, open the Alexa app and it will then automatically update.  


Label your contacts correctly 

Ensure that you check your contacts for any containing the words ‘help’ or ‘emergency’ in their names. Alexa might accidentally call that contact when you use the phrase “call for help”, so it’s best to rename them.  

Can Alexa help with CPR?

Alexa can give you a step-by-step audio guide

If the unthinkable happens and someone goes into cardiac arrest in your home, Alexa can help you provide lifesaving CPR.  

Just say, “Alexa, activate emergency CPR.” Alexa will then explain how to do chest compressions safely, using a metronome to ensure you maintain a steady rhythm. 

Alexa’s help, while useful, is not a substitute for calling 999. The first thing Alexa will tell you to do when you activate this skill is to call emergency services. However, the CPR instructions Alexa provides can be a lifeline, potentially helping to sustain a person’s life until professional help arrives. 

A recent report uncovered a concerning trend where questions posed to different voice assistants led to unreliable responses. For instance, when the enquiry was as direct as “chest compressions”, Alexa’s responds that they are unaware of what the command refers to.

To steer clear of such issues, it’s crucial to remember to use the precise command –  “Alexa, activate emergency CPR.” – and to remain calm when speaking. 

If you’re interested in gaining the confidence and ability to perform CPR effectively, consider looking for a local CPR course. The British Red Cross organise various first aid courses that include how to do CPR.

Alternatively, you can explore The British Heart Foundation’s online course, which can be completed from the comfort of your own home. It’s a personal step towards being better prepared for emergencies and potentially saving lives. 

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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