What to Do in an Emergency When Your Phone Dies

If you get lost while walking, or your car breaks down and you get stuck on the side of the road, the obvious solution is to get help. But what if the battery is low? Please don’t listen to any of these viral posts screaming that you should change your voicemail message. Email a friend instead.

Voicemail can be accessed anywhere, anytime, and you can leave a message with your location, according to “Change Voicemail” messages that appear during hurricane season or are simply circulated on their own as travel advice. and security to inform everyone who may call you. There are a few assumptions here that are only half true, and in any case, you should prioritize a dozen or so other things before changing your voicemail.

Not only are the security experts begging you not to listen to this advice, but I’ve been in a similar situation and went through all the options when they really matter. As I wrote earlier , I got lost during the hike. It got dark, and I have almost no batteries left. To make matters worse, I had almost no cellular signal. In hindsight, I did everything right – and no, changing my voicemail was not one of them.

Send text

Sending texts requires very little battery and very little cellular signal. They will also retry for a few minutes, even if you didn’t have a signal the moment you hit send.

If you know your battery could run out any second , your first priority should be to quickly text a trusted friend with your location and any relevant details. If you know your GPS coordinates, please provide them. Do not include images or attachments; we are trying to send just plain text.

You can also write 911 in many areas , but this is not available everywhere. (Calls can provide more information and help you better and faster, so if you have enough energy to call 911, you should call.)

And notice, I mean the text . Not Signal messages, social media DMs, not even iMessage. If you try to send text in the iPhone Messages app and it displays in blue, press and hold your message and select Send as Text Message. Regular SMS messages will be displayed in green.

Save battery

If you are not in an emergency, you may need to pay attention to the battery. (If not, go to the next step and call 911.) While you are waiting for a reply, turn on Power Saving Mode. Decrease the screen brightness completely and, if the situation permits, consider putting your phone into airplane mode temporarily. In no case answer unnecessary calls and do not use your phone for something that you absolutely do not need.

To survive a long time without a charger, you can completely turn off your phone and then periodically turn it on to check your messages.

Oh, what if you’re stuck with your car? Charge your phone!

Call 911 if possible

If you find yourself in a situation where calling 911 can help, try calling 911 . This call can go through even if other calls do not, as cellular operators are required to route emergency calls no matter what. Your carrier may not have coverage in this part of the forest, but there may be another carrier’s tower nearby that has coverage.

When you call, be sure to provide important information first, in case you get disconnected. This includes your location (to the extent that you know it), the reason you are calling, and your name. After that, you can inform them that your phone is dying.

Stay put

One of the dumbest things you can do in an emergency is the most seductive: trying to move or travel. Stay where you are, especially if you’ve just told 911 or your girlfriend at home where to find you. There is no point in sending a search and rescue team to your location before.

Why not change your voicemail too?

When I got lost in the woods, I followed all the steps above except calling 911. I turned down the brightness, found the GPS coordinates on my phone, and texted my husband to say I was lost, but I’m here . And as much as I hated the place where I found welcome – it was swampy and full of spiders – I stayed there until I got a response from him. He was able to tell me how to get to the road, and I told him that I would follow the route he described as he drove out to meet me. The catastrophe was averted.

If that didn’t work, would I change my voicemail? Damn it no! Calling voicemail takes more battery power than sending text, so I’d rather save some money. It also raises the question of who will ever listen to my voicemail, since a message is only useful if it reaches someone who can act on it. My husband never listens to my voicemail messages; if I don’t pick up my phone, he texts me. Probably the same can be said for your friends and family. The only people who ever got my voicemail are robots trying to contact me about an extended warranty on my machine.

And in any case, if you don’t have a signal, you won’t be able to change your voicemail. It is true that your voicemail message lives on with the operator, so people can hear the message even if your phone is down, but that won’t help you if you can’t reach the operator in the first place to change it.

Some carriers allow you to update your voicemail from another phone or landline, so in theory this is something you could do, but there are very few scenarios where it will actually help you. Maybe your phone died and you found someone else who has a phone but somehow can’t help you charge yours? And you can’t text or call any of your contacts in case of an emergency, but can you wait a while for someone to listen to your voicemail? This is getting pretty far-fetched. Instead, send SMS to your contacts and call 911 if an emergency occurs.


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