There are better alternatives to obtaining aid than updating your voicemail greeting as a means to allow others to call you to find out where you are in an emergency and where you are located.
Voicemail for Emergencies
I’ve seen this tip going around and wanted to correct it so someone doesn’t rely on it when an emergency occurs.
The basic premise is that you’re in danger in a remote area, have no signal, and the battery is low. Then you should update your voicemail greeting with your location and important details. The thought process is that if you go missing, others will call your phone, hear that you need help, and know where to send aid.
Please note that if you have no signal, you CANNOT update your voicemail. If you are going into a dangerous area, don’t. If you do leave a location on your voicemail, it may change if you have to egress from the threat or get lost and evacuate in a direction away from the location you left on your phone.
Call 911 Instead
If you are in an emergency call 911. Even if your battery is low. Even if the battery dies two seconds into the call, dispatchers will typically have your location within 20ft and will send someone to investigate. If there is only one tower in range (very unlikely) it could be off as much as a mile but dispatchers can usually then re-query and get a better location. Some people have said to text 911 if the battery is low. I’d say just call. Most areas still don’t have text-to-911. If your battery is low, signal is bad, and you know the feature is available, then yes, text 911. It will try to relay the sent message until it goes through.
The only scenario where I can see leaving an updated voicemail is when you have signal and there is no emergency but you expect the signal to weaken and/or you suspect danger could be possible. I’d argue don’t proceed if it is dangerous, but maybe there are situations where that’s not feasible. I’d also suggest calling someone first and letting them know where you are. Explain the situation along with a time frame of when you should be back to safety and when they should call for help.
If you do call 911 and there isn’t an imminent threat, stay put and wait for help. Depending on how remote your location is, wait for an hour or two before moving.
This article was originally written by the Grayman Briefing. Stay in the know, sign up for Intel and Situational Awareness alerts pushed to your phone on emerging threats and preparedness warnings. Click HERE to subscribe to the Grayman Briefing.
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