Most of our calls are wilderness. If you do get cell coverage, its usually not reliable. If you can bring a satellite communicator, personal locator, or Ham radio with you.
If you can’t bring any of the above alternatives, make sure you have a hiking plan with a responsible person that is not going hiking with you.
If you do go out with only a cell, try calling 911. If that doesn’t work text 911 and a friend. Often times text messages will be sent when your phone gets signal, and short text messages do not need long once it has a signal. 911 (SNOPAC) is currently testing 911 text to dispatcher and it may not work. Texting the person with your hiking plan might save your life.
If you get a hold of 911 please turn your phones map on. This helps your phone get a more precise location, and you can turn it off as soon as it shows your location accurately, or if dispatch tells you to. Don’t let it drain your battery, but let it reduce our search area.
911 working with the US Air Force Rescue Command, can remotely locate your phone in an emergency. The hiking plan helps them to determine if you are late, strict rules apply for 911 being able to use the location ability, and they have to weigh if you are truly late or just avoiding things in-town. Without a hiking plan, or other reasonable information they may have to wait for 72 hours before locating your phone.
If all else fails, know where the payphones, or landlines are on your way out. For example some campgrounds have payphones, and rangers at the ranger station can tell you where they are located along your route. Often times we get a call from one of the hiking party, who left to find a phone. Knowing where they are could save essential time.