Will changing your voicemail really help you if you’re stranded? We asked an expert.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho– There’s a good chance you’ve been scrolling through your social media and seen a post about changing your voicemail if you’re lost and your phone is dying.

While changing your voicemail sounds like a good idea– some first responders say it might not work. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office shared some things people should keep in mind before they head out to explore the Inland Northwest.

Deputy Brett Fletcher with the sheriff’s office has been searching for missing people for four years.

“It’s dangerous not to tell anyone, even if you are an expert out in the woods. Medical can happen, an injury can happen,” Fletcher said.

He says anything can happen when you get lost and having a cell phone can help. It can be used as a flashlight, a map and for texting. However, sooner or later, the battery will die and you might now know where you are.

The viral post being shared about changing your voicemail only works if you have a signal. You can record it, but Verizon says you need service for it to update on the servers. That’s why Fletcher says it’s not a bad idea, but suggests you change it before you head out.

Fletcher said the best thing you can do is let somebody know where you’re going.

“It takes a couple seconds before you take off, ‘Hey Fred I’m taking off for the woods, I’ll be back tomorrow,'” Fletcher explained.

It’s important to tell somebody where you’re going ahead of time because you might lose signal once you get out there.

Fletcher’s advice for what to do if you’re already lost is: hug a tree. No, really. What he means by that though is stay where you are.

“It’s so much easier to find a subject that is standing still than moving,” he said. “If you can get a service, it doesn’t hurt to start text 911. 911 can receive a text and will give your phone display.”

He said if you prepared for your hike properly, you’ll have what you need to survive.

Here’s what Fletcher suggests:

  • Headlamp
  • Stricker match
  • Cotton bolls wrapped in petroleum jelly to start a fire
  • Trash bags to keep you dry and warm
  • Whistle
  • Paper map
  • Battery charger for your phone
  • Food
  • Water

Another unusual thing to bring: jello.

“Well, why jello? Are you going to eat it? No, you can mark in the snow so if someone’s air support above can actually see it,” Fletcher explained.

Fletcher said just taking those things with you can go a long way when it comes to survival.

Even if you are a long way from home, the search and rescue teams looking for you care about making sure you’re okay.

“Search and rescue. They have the hearts, the servant-style hearts. And they’re out there to find the lost ones,” Fletcher said.