A misguided tip spreading around social media urged people lost with no phone signal to change their voicemail to reach assistance. While well-meaning, this is not what you should be doing if you find yourself in need of help.

Last week, Halifax Search and Rescue posted a response to the viral posts, urging anyone who becomes lost or stranded without service to avoid this “voicemail trick.”

To be blunt. Wasting time changing your voicemail could be the last thing you do. If you don’t call for help, and you didn’t leave a trip plan, NOBODY IS COMING TO GET YOU.

Instead, they recommend conserving your cell phone battery and attempting to contact emergency services. In some locations (be sure to check your area), this can be done by text message, rather than a phone call, in order to save battery charge.

Changing your voicemail only works if you are connected to a cellular network. As AP News reports:

But changing a cell phone’s voicemail greeting, as instructed, would require some form of connection, said Steve Van Dinter, a spokesman for Verizon.

If you have enough signal to change your voicemail, you should be calling for help.

There are a few other steps you should take to help yourself stay safe while hiking or camping, as recommended by the US Forest Service:

Before you go:

  • Bring the essentials
    • Plenty of Water, Food
    • Compass
    • Maps
    • Proper hiking boots
  • Share a trip plan
    • Provide details about your trip to someone not going, who can expect your return
  • Do not hike alone

If you become lost, STOP

  • Stop:
    • As soon as you realize you may be lost: stop, stay calm, stay put. Panic is your greatest enemy.
  • Think:
    • Go over in your mind how you got to where you are. What landmarks should you be able to see? Do not move at all until you have a specific reason to take a step.
  • Observe:
    • Get out your compass and determine the directions based on where you are standing. Do not walk aimlessly.
    • If you are on a trail, stay on it. All trails are marked with signs (where intersections meet) and with diamond blazers or markers. However, signs are sometimes vandalized or stolen.
    • As a very last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. This is often a difficult path but could lead to a trail or road. Again, this could be very dangerous.
  • Plan:
    • Based on your thinking and observations, come up with some possible plans, think them through then act on one of them.
    • If you are not very, very confident in the route, then it’s always better to stay put.
    • If it’s nightfall, you are injured or you are near exhaustion, stay in place.

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