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Learn how OnStar can help keep you and your family safe

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OnStar has unique features designed to make your travels safer, more secure. When the unexpected happens, an OnStar Advisor is ready to help.

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Understand the basics of OnStar

OnStar offers Members with paid subscriptions 24/7/365 access to specially trained Advisors. These Advisors communicate via a three-button, in-vehicle system that relies on:

  • GPS positioning
  • Cellular wireless connectivity
  • Voice and data technology

Members’ in-vehicle red Emergency button provides a priority connection to a live Emergency Advisor. If appropriate, OnStar calls the correct PSAP based on the vehicle location. The Advisor can provide the PSAP with exact vehicle GPS location and can request fire, police or medical support be sent to the vehicle.  

GPS and Cellular Wireless Connectivity
OnStar-equipped vehicles are fitted with external cellular and GPS antennas for omnidirectional coverage. This means the signal is not likely to be blocked by pillars or a roof the way they can be with handheld mobile phones. The GPS antenna generally has a clear line of sight to GPS satellites, while the cellular antenna generally has good connectivity to a cell tower.

System Requirements
The OnStar system is embedded and factory-installed in the vehicle, so it’s available and ready to connect to an OnStar Contact Center, assuming power and a cellular signal are available and the service plan and OnStar hardware are active.

OnStar Emergency Advisors

Emergency Advisors generally have at least six months of experience at our Contact Center handling “non-emergency” calls before they are permitted to answer emergency calls from vehicle occupants. Not all OnStar Advisors handle emergency calls, although most are cross-trained to handle both.

OnStar Emergency Advisors are EMD certified by the IAED,™ and our contact centers have achieved the designation of Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE) status. In medical situations or situations involving injuries, Advisors can provide vehicle occupants with routes to the nearest hospital; or perform EMD and provide pre-arrival instructions while waiting for first responders to arrive. OnStar EMD calls are handled in parallel by two OnStar Emergency Advisors:

  1. The 1st Advisor receives the call from the vehicle, quickly determines the nature of the emergency, verifies the location and conferences in a 2nd advisor to provide EMD, if needed.
  2. While the 2nd Advisor provides EMD, the 1st Advisor simultaneously contacts the PSAP to report the emergency, verifies jurisdiction and provides location with a brief description of the incident. The advisors will coordinate with each other and the PSAP to obtain any additional information necessary to facilitate the appropriate dispatch of help to the scene.
  3. The 2nd Advisor remains on the line until first responders arrive and the 1st Advisor may re-contact PSAP with updates, as needed.

OnStar tools and technologies

GPS Location/Aerial Imagery — Location Is Everything
OnStar knows that it’s critical to precisely locate a vehicle before dispatching emergency resources. GPS allows OnStar and other embedded in-vehicle systems to provide precise location information to 911 dispatch centers regardless of the center’s technical capabilities. OnStar Advisors can provide the location of our caller’s vehicle in terms of street names and alternate street names as well as access aerial imagery.

OnStar can also provide that information in latitude/longitude in decimal degrees. This becomes especially important in situations involving an off-road location or when air support is needed. OnStar can even convert location information to the degrees, minutes and seconds that some Emergency Services professionals need to arrive at the vehicle’s location. In fact, many receive information directly on their ALI screens including the caller ID and the OnStar call back number.

OnStar’s mapping data also contains the digital boundaries for primary 911 dispatch centers across the U.S. and Canada. When an emergency call comes into the OnStar Contact Center, Advisors are immediately provided with the name and contact information of the 911 dispatch center with jurisdiction. We update our mapping data regularly to keep current on digital jurisdictional boundaries and contact information for 911 dispatch centers.

911 PSAP Trunks (U.S. Only)
OnStar has the ability to deliver its emergency calls to the PSAP via 911 trunks. This means that verified emergency incidents get to the PSAP more quickly and reliably than ever. The delivery of these calls is consistent with other emergency calls received at the PSAP.

Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VoIP)
OnStar uses the existing VoIP 911 call and data delivery process to expedite these calls. OnStar calls are telematics-based and not VoIP-based, yet OnStar utilizes the existing VoIP-to-PSAP infrastructure to minimize any impact to the PSAPS. OnStar utilizes the telematics class of service (TLMA), where possible, to provide more context into the call as it arrives at your PSAP.

Automatic Location Identification (ALI) Displays
ALI screens may vary slightly from PSAP to PSAP because this information is presented using the local exchange carrier format. OnStar utilizes the telematics class of service (TLMA), where possible, to provide more context into the call as it arrives at your PSAP. If there is a discrepancy with the display, alert the Advisor, who will then follow-up with the database group. Any problems or boundary changes can be reported by emailing: emergencyservices@onstar.com

Support

OnStar has many additional support resources to assist customers in emergencies, including:

  • Bilingual Advisor teams to assist French and Spanish drivers and similar to PSAPs, OnStar also utilizes the Language Line for assistance communicating with vehicle occupants.  
  • OnStar also has arrangements with Poison Control and Suicide/Crisis Prevention and may conference in these resources when appropriate.
  • Joint forces with the AMBER Alert Secondary Distribution Program (managed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).  When a vehicle occupant contacts OnStar from an area where an AMBER Alert has been issued, an Advisor can provide the details of that alert.  If a vehicle occupant believes they have relevant information about the Amber Alert, the Advisor calls the 911 PSAP with jurisdiction and reports the caller’s GPS location. The Advisor can establish a voice bridge with the vehicle occupant and the PSAP for additional details.

Public Safety Training


Interested in learning how OnStar can help first responders in emergency events? OnStar Public Safety Training is available at no cost. This hour-long self-paced interactive contains a course completion certificate and has been approved for continuing education credit. Contact us to inquire about details at emergencyservices@onstar.com.

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First Responder Stories


Experience a day in the life of a first responder. This exclusive content allows you to hear first-hand accounts of how public safety professionals approach their work — and the many ways they partner with OnStar.

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