DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado search and rescue teams are responding to a viral social media post that they say perpetuates misleading information that could complicate their missions.
The post, which has been shared thousands of times across Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, among other platforms, encourages people who are stranded or lost while hiking to change their voicemail message to include their location, the time, the date, and their situation.
Colorado’s Alpine Rescue Team responded to the post on its own Facebook page, pointing out a handful of problems with the information.
“The message that went viral was just not the best message to put out,” said Howard Paul, public information officer with Alpine Rescue Team. “If you find yourself in trouble somewhere in the backcountry, we don’t want you to waste battery power, we don’t want you to waste time calling your voicemail, calling a friend or relative.”
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Paul added that lost hikers will likely be without a cell signal in the backcountry, and wouldn’t be able to change their voicemail messages anyway.
What to do if you’re in trouble in the backcountry
If a person is in trouble, Paul says they should only use their battery to make a call to 911. He encourages people to use text messages when possible.
“You may very well get a text message directly back from the 911 center. You could get a text back from the search and rescue team,” Paul said.
Charles Pitman with Summit County Rescue Group agrees that wasting cell phone battery in the backcountry can be a costly mistake.
“I can’t tell you how many times I talk to the reporting party and the very first words out of their mouth will be something like ‘I only have 3% on my cell phone battery so I have to speak quickly,'” Pitman said.
This, of course, can make it much more difficult for rescue crews to locate a missing person.
Backcountry safety tips, as recommended by rescue groups
When venturing to the backcountry, rescuers recommend the following safety tips:
- Use text messages
- Turn off other apps
- Keep your cell phone warm to conserve battery life
- Bring a satellite communication device that allows two-way messaging
- Notify someone of your plans before heading out into the backcountry
“The most important thing is to let someone know where you’re going and when you’re going to be back,” Paul said.