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A recent Instagram post went viral for some possible life-saving advice. But is it true?

Karensinsane posted, “EMERGENCY TIP!!!! If you ever find yourself in a dire situation and your phone is about to die or you have no service CHANGE YOUR VOICEMAIL!!! You don’t need data or service to do so. Change it and state the time and your location!!!”

On the surface this is a great tip, and timely in light of the tragic news about the California family that perished in Sierra National Forest. But it’s not entirely true and USA Today did a good job fact-checking it. “There are some exceptions, but in general, cellphone users cannot change voicemail greetings from their devices if they don’t have service.”

Steve Van Dinter, a spokesperson for Verizon, said in an email to USA Today, “While you could dial *86 or change your voicemail greeting with visual voicemail if your battery was dying … you would still need cell service or a data connection of some sort.”

Van Dinter and spokespeople for AT&T and T-Mobile also told USA Today that “their customers can update voicemail greetings over Wi-Fi. If they don’t have any internet access, calling from a landline can work, too.”

I still think it’s a brilliant idea to leave an outgoing voicemail as well as contacting your loved ones if you know you’re going into an area that might not have cell service and/or your battery is running low.

But if you really want to be safe, don’t put yourself in those situations. Bring a portable charger or better yet, rent or buy a satellite phone.


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