Wireless Phone Calls in the Wilderness
Who Will I Reach?
You need to know that wireless phone service may not be available in the wilderness. If service is available, your 9-1-1 call for help will be picked up by the nearest cellular tower in the most direct line of sight to your location. It could be picked up at a county 9-1-1 center, by a State Patrol dispatch, or even by the Canadian authorities. Since these call answering centers are all located outside the boundaries of the calling area, they would have no way of knowing from where you are calling unless you tell them. Be prepared to provide your location. Remember, help may be several hours away or longer. Use 9-1-1 only in case of an actual emergency.
- Start out with a fresh, fully charged battery and carry extra charged batteries with you. Keep batteries warm for extra-long use
- Be prepared to give complete information about the nature of the emergency. You may only be able to make one call. Turn the phone off when not in use
- Establish a call schedule with the emergency center so there are specific times when you will have your phone turned on to receive calls or to make calls out
Be Sure You Know
- Your location, including the trailhead and nearest city, destination or waypoints
- Your wireless phone number, including area code
- How your wireless phone works. Instruct everyone in your party on how to use your phone. Your phone may be pre-programmed to dial 9-1-1 with one button. You could accidentally call 9-1-1 and not even know it. Handle your phone carefully to prevent the automatic misdialing of 9-1-1.
How to increase your signal strength, to include: pointing your antenna up; finding a clearing; gaining elevation; and turning your body - you may be obstructing the signal
- Wireless phones should NEVER replace preparedness
9-1-1 Call Information
Be prepared to provide the following information. Speak slowly and clearly.
- Phone Number (area code)
- Location from where you are calling
- Nature of Emergency
- Injury? Type and severity of injury
- Where is injured party?
- Can injured party walk?
- Lost? How many in your party?
- Last known location you can remember
- Direction traveled from there
- Distance/time traveled from there
Before you leave on your trip:
- Plan your trip and tell family or friends where you are going and when you will be back. Stick to your plan
- Choose clothing, footgear, and equipment suitable for the weather and terrain
- Carry the ten essentials in addition to your other outdoor equipment
- Get a weather forecast before you leave. Postpone the trip if bad weather is predicted
- Carry these instructions with you.
- STOP if you think you are lost:
- S = Stop and Stay Put. Stay calm. If you're in a group, stick together. Don’t go any further without thinking things out
- T = Think. Use your brain. It's your best survival tool. Study your map and surroundings. Don’t make snap judgments. If you have any doubt about where you are, stay put. Move only if necessary to clear a hazardous area (avalanche, rock fall, deadfall, lightning, flash flood, etc.), then stop and stay where you are
- O = Observe. Are there any hazards nearby (avalanche, rock fall, deadfall, lightning, flash flood, etc.)? What is your personal condition and that of the members of your party? Does anyone need first aid? What does the weather look like? What do you have with you to help? Where is the best spot within view to make camp?
- P = Plan and Prepare. Rig a shelter near an open space, if possible. If it can be done safely, make a fire. Set out signals (streamer, marker, or panel). Rest. You will survive. Wait for help. It's on the way!
The 10 Essentials
Always carry on your person a whistle and an emergency shelter (large trash bag, tube tent, mylar space-rescue blanket or bag, etc.) whenever you are outdoors.
In addition, always pack the following 10 basic items on every wilderness trip--whether it's a day hike or a two-week backpacking trip in the mountains:
- First Aid Kit
- Extra Clothing, including a hat. Based on the season, pack enough clothing to keep warm while sitting still
- Rain Gear
- Canteen or Water Bottle (Full)
- Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
- Extra Food
- Extra Matches and Fire Starter
- Sun Protection: sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, lip balm
- Map and Compass. Know how to use them.
You also may want to carry a small piece of foam sleeping pad (12' x 18") for insulation from the cold ground, signaling devices like a mirror, a marker panel, and, in season, insect repellent and/or a head net.
Wilderness Trip Plan
Complete and leave with a friend before your departure.
- Purpose of trip
- The Trip
- General Location
- Specific Location
- Start Point
- Route In
- Route Out
- Finish Point
- Transportation: Vehicle Information
- License #
- Dropped off by
- To be picked up by
- Members of Your Party. (List name, home address and phone number for each member)
- Special Medical Conditions
- If we change plans we will notify: Name: / Phone
- Call Police/Sheriff if not returned by
- Date / time
Signature, date, and wireless phone number (include area code) on plan