Skamania County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue
Recently a Facebook post has gone viral telling people to “update their voice mail” if their battery is going low. This is not the best advice, and will likely not work. We would like to ask that you not follow this advice, clarify why this is bad advice, and suggest better options.
- Anything using voice on your phone uses up far more battery than texts/SMS. Do not use voice if your battery is running low.
- A detailed SMS message uses a fraction of the data that a voice message uses, and can transmit using a much weaker signal than a voice call requires. If you have a weak signal, SMS will transmit when your voice will not.
- If you don’t have a signal, you can’t change your VM. Don’t waste your battery attempting this
- If you have a signal and plenty of battery power, call 911.
- Be sure to have your location with GPS coordinates ready.
- Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth and put your phone in airplane mode (or turn off cellular) to conserve power.
- Compose an SMS message to all your trusted contacts. Text only – no images or attachments. Write where you are (as best as you can, bonus points for GPS coordinates!), your condition, and any info needed to locate you. It is FAR easier for a hasty team to locate a vehicle on a road/trail than to locate a person that has gone off into the brush. You can also text 911, but be aware that text 911 is NOT functional in all areas of the country.
- When you are happy with your detailed SMS message, turn off airplane mode (or turn your cellular back on), send, and cross your fingers that your tiny SMS data packet gets out to us! Outgoing texts will retry for a while if low/no signal, then cancel. Check to make sure your text went out. Moving a little to avoid hills and trees may help.
- STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE, STAY NEAR A ROAD OR TRAIL.
- If that doesn’t work, our team will be sending in Thing 1 (pictured) and Thing 2 to get you. (Assuming you told someone where you were going and when you’d be back. You did remember to tell someone your plans, right?)
Additional advice that makes a lot of sense and could possibly save your life!:
If you are ever lost while hiking, get stranded with a broken-down car, etc… and you notice your cell phone battery is low, here is a tip that very well may save your life.
Change the voicemail message on your phone to one that gives your approximate location, the time, the date, your situation (lost, out of gas, car broken down, injured, etc…) and any special instructions such as you are staying with the car, you are walking toward a town, etc….
The best part of this is that even if your cell phone dies or stops working, voicemail still works, so anyone calling your phone looking for you will hear the message and know where to find you or where to send help.