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Understanding ‘SOS mode’ on iPhones after AT&T national outage


More than 74,000 AT&T customers across the nation reported being without service Thursday morning after the company's network went down, according to reporting from CNN.

For many iPhone users, the word "SOS" appeared in the top right corner of phone screens, where the device's cell signal is typically located. The word indicates that while your device doesn't have service, you are still able to make phone calls in the event of an emergency.

Director of the Boone County Office of Emergency Management Chris Kelley said the feature works by allowing you to use another provider's network.

"It does allow you to go to another provider's network to message a local 911 center or emergency number," Kelley said.

According to Apple's website, there is also the ability to add emergency contacts that will be sent a text message after their emergency call ends. This can be done by going to "Health" in the phone's settings-- Medical ID-- edit--emergency contacts--add.

Camden County Emergency Management posted on its Facebook page, alerting people of the feature Thursday morning, and asking that people do not "test out" the system.

"Telecommunicators are busy working emergencies and non-emergency test calls slow down the important work coordination services," the post states.

Kelley noted Boone County Joint Communications did not receive an influx of people calling to test out the system, adding they received "a handful at best." A spokesperson for the Columbia Police Department said the outage affected the department by creating longer response times.

"Calls that would typically be handled by phone required an in-person response," CPD spokeswoman Jenny Hopper said.

Kelley said he recommends people take the time to learn about the features of their device when purchasing them.

"If i'm off network, is there this offering by my provider and the device in which I have if it is eligible for SOS," Kelley said. "They need to drill that before there's a communication failure and they need to make sure they're familiar with how that device works."

Service was restored to all affected customers around 2 p.m. AT&T posted an update stating it was caused during an incorrect process while trying to expand their network.

"Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack," the post states. "We are continuing our assessment of today’s outage to ensure we keep delivering the service that our customers deserve."

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Nia Hinson


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