How to let important people get through iOS’s Do Not Disturb or Focus settings

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The Do Not Disturb option added to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS should be entered in history books for their contributions to people’s uninterrupted periods of sleep and focused times while working. However, what if want to provide an exception for people important in your life, particularly for emergencies?

iOS has offered a bypass for several releases in a couple of different places.

With Do Not Disturb, you could allow anyone in your Favorites list in the Phone app to bypass the DND setting for calls. A separate option for calls and the only way to pass through text notifications required a non-obvious process: open a contact, tap Edit, tap Ringtone (for calls) or Text Tone (for texts), and then tap Emergency Bypass. You can make this change in either or both Ringtone or Text Tone. Tap Done when complete.

Emergency Bypass, hidden in the Contacts editing screen, grants permission to contacts to bypass your Focus and Do Not Disturb settings.

Starting with iOS 15, you have a lot more options in customizing your Focus modes, including Do Not Disturb, now a subcategory of Focus.

Go to Settings > Focus and tap any of the categories, like Do Not Disturb, Driving, or Sleep. Under Allowed Notifications, you can choose settings separately for People and Apps.

Tap People and you can find the old option for passing through calls, now under Also Allow as Calls From. Tap that menu to switch between Favorites and options like Everybody (a little self-defeating?), Favorites, only people in your contacts, or Groups. You can also opt to allow repeated calls or not—otherwise, calls will only be passed through more than three minutes apart for selected people.

Add individuals through the Allowed Notifications section’s People list in any Focus mode. The Allowed Notifications From section lets you pick individuals to override Focus for both text notifications and incoming calls.


But Allowed Notifications also lets you add individual people by tapping the Add Person + button. This setting affects both calls and notifications. This is parallel to but managed entirely separate from the Emergency Bypass option above.

What are the differences between Emergency Bypass and Allowed Notifications > Allowed People?

Calls: Emergency Bypass can be set just for calls; Allowed People can’t be limited to just calls.

Texts: Likewise Emergency Bypass can be set just for texts; Allowed People cannot.

For all calls/text: Emergency Bypass overrides any Focus mode in iOS 15, just like overriding Do Not Disturb in iOS 14 and earlier.

Per Focus mode: Allowed People can be set distinctly for each Focus mode.

The whole point of these various bypasses is to make sure you don’t miss something that’s vital. Choose wisely and use the range of options to your advantage to tweak incoming calls and text notifications to fit.

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