When not to use your voicemail in a worst case scenario and when to text 911

Voicemail for Emergencies.

There are better alternatives to obtaining aid than updating your voicemail greeting as a means to allow others to call you to find out where you are in an emergency and where you are located.

I've seen this tip going around and wanted to correct it so someone doesn't rely on it when an emergency occurs.

The basic premise going around is that if you're in danger in a remote area and have no signal on your phone and the battery is low; update your voicemail greeting with your location and important details. The thought process is that if you go missing, others will call your phone hear that you need help and know where to send aid.

Please note that if you have no signal, you CANNOT update your voicemail. If you are going into a dangerous area, don't. If you do leave a location on your voicemail, it may change if you have to egress from the threat or get lost and evacuate in a direction away from the location you left on your phone.

If you are in an emergency call 911. Even if your battery is low. Even if the battery dies two seconds into the call, dispatchers will typically have your location within 20ft and will send someone to investigate. If there is only one tower in range (very unlikely) it could be off as much as a mile but dispatchers can usually then re-query and get a better location. Some people have said to text 911 if the battery is low, I'd say just call, most areas still don't have text-to-911. If your battery is low and signal is bad, and you know the feature is available, then yes, text 911 it will try to relay the sent message until it goes through.

The only scenario where I can see leaving an updated voicemail is when you have signal and there is no emergency but you expect the signal to weaken and/or you suspect danger could be possible. I'd argue don't proceed if it is dangerous but maybe there are situations where that's not feasible. I'd also suggest calling someone first and letting them know where you are, and explain the situation along with a time frame of when you should be back to safety and when they should call for help.

If you do call 911 and there isn't an imminent threat, stay put and wait for help. Depending on how remote your location is, wait for an hour or two before moving.


There are some scenarios where calling and speaking aloud with a 911 dispatcher is not safe. Some area now provide a texting service allowing you to send a text to the number "911" as an alternative to dialing "911".

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device.

When involved in a hostage taking, kidnapping, hijacking, domestic disturbance, or other like emergencies; texting 911 may be the better option. It allows you to summon aid and provide critical data without alerting the hostile actor. Also, during a Life Altering Event cell towers may be overloaded with calls which could prevent you from making a phone call to anyone. Texting has shown to be more reliable during these events. In the case of emergency dispatch centers, first responders may be overburdened and dispatchers may not be able to answer your call. A text if it goes through, will still show on communication CAD systems allowing them to dispatch aid as first responders become available.

If an emergency event does not require the need to contact 911 silently, it is always best to use standard voice contact via 911 because it provides more information to 911 call centers. Always make a voice call to 911 during an emergency whenever possible.

Text-to-911 is only currently available in certain locations. Download the spreadsheet below to see if the service is available in your area. The file does not list locations alphabetically so run a search function in the file.

》 https://www.fcc.gov/file/12285/download