This hiking trick that has gone viral on social media may sound smart, but experts say quite the opposite.
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A viral “safety” tip for hiking actually gives terrible advice.
If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve probably seen some viral advice on what to do if you’re having issues with a low battery. It looks a bit like this:
If you get lost on a hike, get stuck with a broken down car, etc.
Replace your phone’s voicemail with a message indicating your approximate location, time, date, situation (loss, gasoline failure, broken down car, injured, etc.) and any special instructions such as you stay with the car, you are heading to a city etc … The best part of this is that even if your cell phone dies or stops working, voicemail is still working, so anyone who calls your phone is looking for you will hear the message and know where to find you or where to send help!
Sounds legitimate, right? I will be the first to admit that I said “this is such a good idea” when reading it for the first time. It turns out that the experts say it’s not a good idea at all.
What should you do when you’re stuck with a low battery and no cell service?
The Center for Wilderness Safety Facebook page reminded us that you can’t change your voicemail without cell service, and it’s not a good idea to waste your battery by doing so.
Instead, they urge you to stay put and call or text immediately (I didn’t even know you could text 911). And, of course, make sure all of your apps are closed, so you don’t waste more unnecessary battery power.
Check out the potentially life-saving post below:
Let’s talk about the viral post advising people to change their voicemail when they are lost and their cell phone battery is low. Posts like this grab your attention, are liked by people who don’t know better, are shared by people trying to be helpful, and the algorithm spreads it like wildfire.
1. Without signal (connection to cellular system) YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR VOICE MAIL. The voicemail system resides with your mobile phone provider. To modify your outgoing message, you must CALL in your voicemail, then navigate through the menus, record a new greeting, confirm the new greeting, etc. YOU CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT A SIGNAL.
2. If your battery is low, don’t waste its power calling your voicemail or a friend or relative. Call 9-1-1 for assistance.
3. If you have no signal, send a text message for help on 9-1-1. Many, if not most, 9-1-1 centers can receive a text message. An added bonus is that your GPS position will be added to the text on 9-1-1.
4. Text takes a lot less power, is much more likely to pass, will automatically retry several times if you have spotty service, leaves a recording that others can see, and can give you an indication that it’s passed. BTW, due to automatic attempts, you can dial and tap send on a text, then place your phone as high as possible to improve the chances of getting the message across.
5. Stay put. OK, if you are lost or broken down and have called for help (assuming you have the signal and the battery), please stay in one place, UNLESS YOU HAVE TO MOVE FOR SAFETY REASONS . Changing locations makes our work more difficult. Trying to hit someone whose GPS position we have (in a circle, of course) is faster for us than trying to nail a moving target. STAY IN PLACE.
6. Maximize battery life. In order to extend battery life, turn off anything you don’t need. Close all applications. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Do not use your cell phone as a GPS / map device and especially do not use the compass if your phone has one – the compass function of some phones seriously depletes the battery. Take out your map and compass and / or use a dedicated GPS unit. You may be prompted by text message to turn off your phone and wake it up at a specific time. Also, keep your phone a little warm with a little body heat or a hand warmer.
Thanks to JE Bloodgood, who posted the flesh of this information on the Colorado 14ers!
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