Setting Up Amazon Echo’s Alexa to Alert Family to Emergency

Getting Amazon #Echo's #Alexa to Notify Family of an Emergency Using #IFTTT

My Alexa now notifies the family if there is an emergency.

My mom is pretty dang tech savvy for an 84-year-old.  She has an iPhone 6, she texts, and she even has a Snapchat (although we made her promise not to sext!).

So, when she called me up in February and told me she had a new Amazon Echo and wanted to set it up, I wasn’t surprised.  I hadn’t gotten an Echo, but I had watched from the sidelines–reading everything I could about Amazon’s wonderful speaker with the AI assistant, Alexa, available, like a genie in a bottle, to grant your every wish.  You can shop, listen to music, track your packages, and even control a smart home–why wouldn’t I be impressed?

A long time ago, my mother and I started sharing our Amazon Prime account, and so when I went to set up the Echo for her, it was a breeze.  Almost immediately, I wondered, “If my mother fell or had an emergency, could she use Alexa to call for help?”  I Googled the question, only to find that the new Alexa “skills” marketplace had no way to connect Alexa to 911 or any emergency services.  Developers had complained saying that only Amazon engineers could install that capability.

So, I looked for another option.  Yesterday, I started looking at recipes for Alexa in the very wonderful “If This Then That” app (IFTTT) on my iPhone.  I discovered that there was a way to have Alexa call your phone–even an IFTTT recipe for that–but all it would do is call.  It was good for finding your phone, but not much else.

What about texting?  I couldn’t find a recipe to directly text, but I did find a recipe for an app I use a lot:  GroupMe.  GroupMe allows you to create a group of people you want to text.  I have used it a lot with my classes to inform them when I am late, or when class is cancelled, or when we have an assignment coming up. I also have a group for family that I established years ago when my son was seriously ill in the hospital.  It was PERFECT.

In the IFTTT app, I created the following recipe:

Getting Amazon #Echo's #Alexa to Notify Family of an Emergency Using #IFTTT

I set up the “Alexa” part of the recipe by first connecting the Alexa app on my phone to IFTTT (it’s painless, they just ask you for permission), then I chose “say a specific phrase” as the Alexa trigger.  I set that phrase to be “emergency.”

For the GroupMe part of the recipe I already had a group set up, but if you don’t, first establish a group of family and/or friends that you would want to notify in an emergency on the GroupMe app on your phone.  Then add GroupMe to the recipe.  It will ask you which group to connect to. Select the group you established for the emergency notification.

Next it will ask what you want the message to say.  I knew I wanted to test the recipe first to make sure it worked, so I put in “This is a test.  I am setting up an emergency notification for Mom’s Alexa.  If you see this message, it worked!”

Make sure you save the recipe before you test it.  To test it, I called my mother and asked her to say, “Alexa trigger emergency.”  She replied “Sending to IFTTT,” and I immediately received a text on my phone with the message I had typed.

I then went back into the IFTTT app and changed the message to read, “Someone at mom’s house has just indicated there is an emergency.  Please call:  (I added her house phone here).  If there is no answer, please notify 911.  Her address is:  (I put in my mother’s address and zip code.)”

That’s it. Now we have an emergency notification set up and, as I said to my mother, “I hope we never need it.”

16 thoughts on “Setting Up Amazon Echo’s Alexa to Alert Family to Emergency

  1. Hi there, I just got my Alexa as a life alert system after waiting a few years. The dot made it more affordable for me as I don’t have help, pay for a carer and that leaves me strapped. I don’t yet have the smart home add ons but I was looking to see what disability tools existed beyond the one that sold me on my new friend. There’s a way without IFTT now.

    You get a call, text, and can even set up an email address.

  2. Thank you! I am now familiar with two apps I’d never heard of before, IFTTT and GroupMe and what you did above was exactly what I was looking for, at least until they figure out how to make a phone call directly to 911 from the Echo. :/

    Until then this will work fine, unless my mom can’t remember “Alexa trigger emergency”, which is the first thing she mentioned. Oh well…

  3. This was fantastically helpful information! My 69 year young Mother fell at home and broke her femur two weeks ago. She has had surgery and is now in a rehabilitation facility. Naturally we are looking at options like Life Alert and more alternative options like Echo. I was disappointed to find Echo could not engage 911 but I think your workaround is an excellent alternative. I really appreciate having this additional information and look forward to trying it out. Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed how to.

  4. This sounds great, but a question. Does the IFTTT actually call 911 or does it rely on the family members to get the text and call 911?

    Guess it also relies on being able to text, which doesn’t work without cell coverage here in the boonies.

  5. I tried this but it did not work well for me. So I created an IFTTT applet which uses gmail to email or text a message to up to 5 users. Remember gmail will send a text to a phone if you use the standard SMS to email gateway. email address. Most often number@sms server as in

  6. Does this require the owner of Alexa to have a smart phone? Our 95 year old grandma does not have a smart phone and we would like to get her Alexa for this purpose. Can we setup the IFTTT and GroupMe app on our phones and some how sync it to her Alexa?

    • Jeff,
      I set up my mother’s Echo with my smartphone. Just as long as someone has a smartphone, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  7. Excellent. Thank you for setting this up. I will definitely need to share this with my parents. (This would also make an excellent Christmas gift.)

  8. Thank you for figuring this out. My wife is disabled and can’t be trained to use the mechanical devices, but she could call “Help”. Now if I’m only technical enough to set this up. I’m 82 and at times it’s hard to imagine that over 60 years ago I was a technician in the Air Force working on radar systems in fighter-interceptors!

  9. I just purchased ECHO for my wife and I. We are both 70+. The prime reason for the purchase was “I’ve fallen—” Now I would hate to be the one to send out false or inadvertent “SAVE ME” messages. Having a reliable filter for requesting 911 is a great idea. The problem is TIME. In an emergency the speed of response is critical. Key Words like FALL – FIRE- HEART- STROKE- EMT
    BLOOD- might be vocal choice for “Alexa send MAYDAY MAYDAY HEART” And of course posting to an effective group is very important. Including local emergency service phone numbers would be necessary. Who in your “AID ME” group would respond or read a text or answer a call at two o’clock in the morning?

  10. I am 60 and just this morning I fell upstairs, no one in the house heard me yelling. We have several Alexas and wondered if I put one upstairs can i make it call another one to warn everyone downstairs that I need help?
    And if you know how please use simple language to help us set it up. Thank you.

  11. Pingback: Alexa 911: How to Use Alexa Alert in Case of Emergency | KFire TV News

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