4 News Now Q&A: Should you change your voicemail if you’re lost or stranded?

Your Questions Answered

Q: Should you change your voicemail if you are lost or stranded? 

A post that’s been shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook and has been making the rounds on Instagram, TikTok and other platforms advises people who are lost or stranded while their cellphone has little battery or no signal to change their voicemail. 

A: While it may be well-meaning, search and rescue organizations say the advice is not sound.

Here’s why: According to cellphone providers you cannot actually change your voicemail without a signal.

To change your outgoing message, you have to call into your voicemail, but to do that, you need service or some connection, or access to a landline.

Instead, rescue organizations say if your battery is low, do not waste power by calling your voicemail or a loved one.

Call 911 for help.

You can also text 911, but try to be as succinct as possible. The shorter the message, the less data connection is needed for it to push through the cell network.

Kootenai County’s Back Country Patrol says after calling or texting 911, stay where you are.

“It’s so much easier to find a subject that is standing still than moving,” Deputy Brett Fletcher said.

Deputy Fletcher said if you prepared for your hike properly beforehand, you will have what you need to survive while rescue crews try to find you.

He recommended you bring a headlamp, trash bags to keep you dry and warm, a whistle so people know where you are and a paper map.

Have you seen something online that you have questions about? Submit them here.