BC SAR groups urge backcountry users to ignore “safety” message in viral post

WatchThe post seen on Facebook suggested people change their voicemail message to include certain information if their cell phone was losing battery power.

Search and Rescue teams in BC say information in a recent Facebook post that went viral should be ignored by backcountry users.

The post read: “If you are ever lost while hiking, get stranded with a broken-down car, etc. and you notice your cell phone is either low on juice or has no signal here’s a tip that may very well save your life. Change the voicemail on your phone to a message that gives your approximate location, the time, the date, your situation and any special instructions such as you are staying with the car, you are walking toward town etc. The best part of this is that even if your cell phone dies or stops working, voicemail still works so anyone calling your phone looking for you will hear the message and know where to find you or where to send help.”

“My first reaction was that’s probably not the best advice,” said Arrowsmith Search and Rescue’s Nick Rivers.

SAR teams say don’t waste your time or phone battery doing this, there are better options.

“If you have battery power left on your phone, if you have a cell signal which you would need in order to change your voicemail, you’re much better off to get your location on your phone and text it to a reliable source,” said Rivers.

He says changing your voicemail doesn’t actively tell anyone that you are in trouble.

“If you’re going to change your voicemail it’s going to use up to ten times more battery power and more cell data than sending a text message,” said Rivers.

Having someone reliable to text is part of having a Trip Plan, one of the essential safety measures you should take if you’re heading into the backcountry according to BC AdventureSmart.

“You’ve filled out a detailed trip plan and left all your information about your adventure, who you’re with, your abilities, your skills, you’re route, when you’re coming back, equipment taken, how you got to the point and how you’re returning in a detailed trip plan with a trusted emergency contact,” said BC AdventureSmart Executive Director Sandra Riches.

Riches says if you have enough cell phone battery and a cell signal phone 911 for help and ask for police who will then direct the correct resources.

Otherwise, even with a weak battery and weak cell signal texts can be sent.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that if you don’t have cell service because you’re on Telus for example and there’s no Telus coverage in the area, but there is Rogers coverage then 911 will still work even if your phone says no signal,” added Rivers.

Rivers added, “Once we have your number we’ll be texting you so we don’t use up your battery.”

READ MORE: BC Search and Rescue Association reminds public it doesn’t charge for searches

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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