Local search and rescue groups agree that a solid trip plan or calling 911 is a far better survival strategy than changing your voicemail when lost and in trouble out in the backcountry.
A recent social media post has gone viral, suggesting people change their voicemail to their last known location if they find themselves lost, broke down, or injured, and their phone low on battery power or without service. The advice continues to make the rounds on hiking pages and social media groups across the province.
Brian Lamond, president of North Peace Search and Rescue, says he hasn’t seen or heard about the post, but wants the public to know their best tool is the three T’s – trip planning, training, and taking the essentials.
“If I had limited battery life and cell service, I would be phoning 911. If I knew I was lost or in need of help, then I would relay that information to the 911 operator up front,” said Lamond. "That would be far more advantageous."
Nearly all modern cell phones have a compass function, with the ability to pin GPS co-ordinates on a map for others to see, Lamond said.
“Sometimes we don’t get cell phone numbers for people in the field,” Lamond said. "A lot of it depends if it’s activated and if they’ve left a trip plan."
Marcel Woodill, president of South Peace Search and Rescue, said he hasn’t seen any instances of local hikers or outdoor enthusiasts using the bad advice that has been circulating, but agrees the public should plan their trips in detail and let people know what they’re doing and where they're going.
“If you’re stranded and low on battery life the best bet is to call 911 so they can locate you, or, if you’re limited on service, send someone a text message or a pin drop with your location,” he said. "There’s so many better ways you can use your phone, if it’s going to die."
Ten essentials and further vetted trip planning advice can be found on adventuresmart.ca for those needing practical information and resources.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News