By now we've all seen the viral post going around on social media that encourages people who are lost in the woods (or anywhere else for that matter) and find themselves with a dying battery to change their outgoing voicemail message. While it seems to make sense, experts are saying that isn't what you should do at all.

So, What Does the Viral Social Media Post Say?

The gist of the now-viral Facebook post (this may be the original, but it's hard to be exactly sure) is that if you are ever out hiking, or get stranded in your car, or just wander into the woods and get lost(?), you should change your phone's outgoing voicemail message.


Basically advising that if you notice that your battery is getting low, you want people to have an idea of where you are. Seems smart -  you just record a message that gives your approximate location, the time, the date, your situation, and any special instructions such as whether you're staying with your vehicle or walking toward the nearest town. The post that I came across resonated so deeply with people that it's been shared over 131,000 times. But, the experts say that this isn't the best or smartest way to make sure that you're found.

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What Should You Do Instead?

Well, should you find yourself stranded (in your car, in the woods, in the desert, wherever), there ARE some things that you can do with your phone before you run out of juice. The Alpine Rescue Team, based out of Evergreen, Colorado, has some tips.

They point out that if you have a bad signal, you're not going to be able to change your voicemail anyway. Instead, they suggest that you:

  • Call 9-1-1. Not a friend, not a family member, NOT your voicemail. Just 9-1-1.
  • If you find that you have absolutely no signal, text 9-1-1. Not all areas have 9-1-1 texting but many do. Even if your signal is weak, your phone will keep trying to send it. Once you've hit send, you can try to get your phone up higher to get a better signal, etc.
  • Stay where you are. That's right, don't try to un-lost yourself, you're likely to find yourself even more lost. Alpine Fire Rescue says that the ONLY instance in which you should move is for safety reasons.
  • Make sure that you turn off absolutely everything on your phone that you don't need - apps, Bluetooth, wifi, all of it. That will help maximize your battery power and help keep your phone on longer.

What Else Can You Do If You Find Yourself Lost?

The Skamania County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team based out of Washington state has also chimed in on the now-viral social media post with some tips of their own.

  • They suggest first turning off Bluetooth and wifi and putting your phone into airplane mode.
  • Once in airplane mode, compose a detailed text message to your trusted contacts. This text should not include any photos.
  • The text should include details such as GPS coordinates (if you have them), your condition (are you injured, disoriented, etc.), and any other information that would be helpful in locating you.
  • Once you're happy with the information in your text, turn off airplane mode and hit send.
  • Skamania Search and Rescue also emphasizes that you should stay with your vehicle and on the road or trail if at all possible. Their last piece of information - always make sure that someone knows where you're going. If your text has not gone through, someone knowing your route/where you were heading will be helpful to rescuers.

In the end, while a voicemail change may be helpful, there are other ways that you can ensure that you are found safely.

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