4 ways your smart speaker can help during an emergency
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa can assist.
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Emergencies are stressful enough, and in a panic you might not think to lean on popular voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant for support. However, devices like Amazon’s Echo Show 5 or Google’s Nest Hub Max may be able to help you when you need it most.
To make sure you are as prepared as you can be, we’ve outlined several helpful ways that Amazon Echo and Google Home devices can assist during emergencies. Make sure to download and log into the Amazon Alexa app or Google Home app (whichever is your ecosystem of choice). Whether it’s making an emergency call during a burglary or getting severe weather alerts for impending storms, there are plenty of ways these popular voice assistants can help.
1. Get severe weather alerts
Hurricanes, tornados, snow storms—each part of the U.S. has its unique weather events. Some (like wildfires and floods) can strike at a moment’s notice, making timely severe weather alerts all the more important to enable. Alexa can help alert you in the event of a weather emergency when you say, “Alexa, tell me when there’s a severe weather alert.” To turn the feature off, ask her to “cancel severe weather alerts.”
Alternatively, you can manage Alexa smart home severe weather alerts in the Notifications section of the Amazon Alexa app. In the app, you can also refine alert types and frequency.
Severe weather alerts are currently not available on Google smart speakers and displays.
2. Quickly call a friend or family member
You may not be able to find your phone when an emergency starts unfolding at home. This can be a lifesaver for elderly adults living alone who might fall down. With a quick shout, their Amazon Echo or Google Nest device can phone a friend or relative for help.
To make a phone call using an Echo device, you need to set it up in the Amazon Alexa app first. Here’s how to do it:
1 Open the Alexa app.
2. Tap Communicate to verify your mobile information, grant permissions for calling, and import your contact list.
To test it out, say, "Alexa, call (contact's name)" from your phone's contact list and she will ring them up. You can also tell Alexa which contact's phone number you'd like to call. For example, if you have a contact with multiple saved numbers (home, cell, work), you ask Alexa to call the person “at work” or “at home.”
Calls between certain other Echo devices are available, too. Additionally, you can also assign a dedicated emergency contact for Alexa to dial when you ask her to "call for help" or "call my contact for help."
Google’s Nest line of smart displays and speakers can make calls, too. Here's how you set it up.
1. Open the Google Home app.
2. Tap to open your account in the upper right hand corner.
3. Tap Assistant Settings > Communication > _Call Providers.
4. Add your phone number to link your service provider and toggle Contacts Uploading to on.
You should receive a text with a verification code to enter to complete the setup process. Making phone calls with Google Assistant is available on all Google Nest speakers and displays.
It’s a good idea to test out the calling feature on your Echo or Google device to ensure it's working properly before an emergency strikes.
It’s important to note that 911, premium rate or three-digit numbers, international calls, and dial by letter numbers are not natively supported for use with Alexa or Google Assistant.
3. Alert you to security threats at home—and get emergency help
Google smart speakers can listen for sounds like breaking glass and smoke alarms when paired with a paid Nest Aware subscription plan, which can be very helpful when you’re not at home. For example, if the speaker hears your smoke alarm going off, it can send a push alert to your phone with the audio clip of the blaring tone. For help, tap Emergency Calling in the Google Home app to get in touch with an emergency call center near where you live.
With an Alexa Guard Plus paid plan, your Echo speaker can alert you to sounds like breaking glass and smoke alarm tones, too. Echo devices can also play a siren tone (or dog barking) when activity is detected inside when you're away from home to help deter intruders. Alexa Guard Plus also supports hands-free calls to a nearby emergency helpline.
4. Provide basic medical advice
Alexa and Google Assistant can answer many different questions, and while there is no substitute for a doctor, these two popular voice assistants can offer basic medical advice like “How to treat a stomach ache?” or “What are the first signs of a heart attack?”
All you have to do is ask. Alexa or Google Assistant will respond with data from reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alexa can even help determine your risk for catching viruses like COVID-19 or the flu in your area.
Just keep in mind that voice assistants cannot diagnose a medical problem or treat you for an injury, and you should seek help from a medical professional.
Remember that your Amazon Echo and Google Nest speakers are here to assist during stressful situations, but they are no replacement for medical professionals and emergency responders.
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