The hurricanes of 2017, Harvey, Irma, Maria and more has shown us that leaving a voicemail for our loved ones to keep in touch with us is so important – even when cell service is spotty.
Imagine when you are trying to call your husband or child, and they aren’t answering their phone. You keep calling and leave messages, but for whatever reason, they aren’t returning your call.
You begin to worry that something has happened, that they’ve had a wreck, they’ve been abducted by aliens, or some other serious issue and then ten minutes later, they call and say their cell ran out of charge and they couldn’t call, but everything is fine. (And here’s the case for carrying an extra battery charger!)
Now imagine that your loved one was in Houston. Or New Orleans. Or New York on September 11 (isn’t it amazing that we don’t even have to attach a year to that date and everyone knows what we’re talking about?). Cell service is spotty at best. You can call, but all you are directed to is their voice mail, which is nothing more than, “Hi, leave me a message after the beep.”
Or worse yet, the mechanical voice saying, “I’m sorry, the voicemail box associated with this number has not been set up.”
How much better would it be to call, and while you can’t talk to them because the service is spotty, you hear a voice mail message to you that they are safe, they made it through, and they are heading to shelter.
Use Your Cell Phone’s Voicemail to
Relay Messages in an Emergency / Disaster
Cell service may be spotty to non-existent during an emergency or natural disaster for various reasons. Cell towers are damaged or there’s just too much cell traffic for them to handle. You may also have problems calling out, but changing your voicemail isn’t a problem at all.
When you are caught in a disaster zone, and you have spotty service, leave a new voicemail on your phone to your family and friends. You can change the voicemail often, letting them know you’re safe, or that you need help, or that they should stay away, etc.
It just takes a few moments of cell service to change your message. If they try to call in and are just left with your voicemail (which is uploaded to the cell service’s cloud, not in your area), they can have relief knowing that they’ve heard from you.
Unfortunately, this really won’t work if you have no service whatsoever. But keep trying. Service interruptions happen a lot during emergency situations, and you might find a window where you have it for just a few minutes.
Aren’t there other options other than voicemail?
There are other options! But not all of your family uses Twitter (though that should definitely be something to consider in your family’s emergency plan). You may not have everyone’s current cell phone number to text. Or you may be at a point where typing that info is inconvenient in your situation.
And, just like with our food and our supplies, a backup plan is always a good idea. AND REMEMBER…keep a charger handy!
Use the Zello App
Services like the free Zello app allow you to use your cell phone as a makeshift walkie talkie. You or your family can set up a channel to talk with each other as a group and convey messages or just talk. With Hurricane Harvey, the Cajun Navy used this app to muster rescuers, to send them out to locations where people were needing help and to convey rescue requests.
It was also a way for victims to task for help from people who could get to them. They could direct the dispatchers with specific information on how to find them when most ways of identity were covered in water.
Again, you do need cell service to use the app, but it is another form of communication to be aware of in a time of crisis.
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