Handling emergencies — the Emergency Note and managing phone loss

After a long COVID related pause I’m back working on my book on using iPhone technology to support spectrum and cognitive disability adults. Today’s chapter was about the “Emergency Note”.

One of the most important notes is the Emergency note — but I only got around to creating one after our Explorers became more independent and had to handle unexpected events on their own.

An emergency doesn’t have to be life-threatening or painful. For some Explorers it can be an unexpected change in routine. It may be a bus that doesn’t show up, or entering a Lyft address incorrectly and getting off at the wrong location. When stress and anxiety sets in an Explorer may lose the ability to think clearly; the emergency note should help reestablish confidence.

I created a shared note for our Explorers. They can edit it as well.

The core of our emergency note is a list of phone numbers to call. It starts with our numbers then extends to local numbers and long distance calls to relatives. For completeness we include 911, but also the local police department’s non-emergency number. The note advises self-identifying as “spectrum” or “special needs” when calling police. (Our local police department has an award-winning program for working with spectrum adults.)

Our note also has general advice on managing emergencies:

1. Find a safe place to problem solve.
2. On a hot day look for shade, on a cold day look for shelter.
3. Get as comfortable as you can. If there’s a coffee shop or restaurant nearby you might go inside and sit down. You can order a beverage.
4. Find out where you are at. You can see your location on Apple Maps. You can say “Hey Siri, where am I” and you will see your location and a map.
5. Start with Mom, then Dad, and then move down the list. When trying a number send a text and and also phone. If there’s no answer leave a voice message. In the message say where you are and what you need. If you think you’re phone might not work mention that.
6. If all else fails you can call SPPD non-emergency and get help from them.
7. If you call the police explain that you have autism.

There’s also a “planning ahead” section:

– Always carry some cash, an ID card, a credit card and written emergency instructions. It would be great to carry this separately from your phone in a slim wallet.
– What would you do if your phone was lost or stolen? Can you remember Mom and Dad number? Should you write down some numbers to keep in a card in a wallet separate from a phone? How would you make a phone call?
– If you don’t have phone you can go to a store and ask for help. You may have to try multiple places. Customer service at a larger store may help, you may need to speak with a manager. It helps if you can give them a number to call.

In a world where we are ever more dependent on our phones the hardest problem is loss of the phone. This can happen with battery failure or a lost or stolen phone. Once we memorized numbers and carried wallets, but now some Explorers are reluctant to carry anything but their phone and nobody remembers phone numbers very well. (We memorize passwords instead of phone numbers!)

Even if an Explorer is willing to carry an ID card or credit card they may be in a wallet attached to the phone. If the phone is stolen a phone wallet goes too. (Of course wallets can also be stolen.) At the time I write this we are still working this problem. Possible solutions include memorizing one or two phone numbers (this can be hard), carrying a wallet with a few printed numbers on it, carrying an ID tag, having numbers written on the back of a the tongue of shoe.

A smart watch can be part of a phone backup solution too.