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When hiking, I often find myself in areas where cell phone reception is poor or intermittent. Sometimes the signal is not good enough to make a call, but it is still possible to send text messages (SMS). I have often wondered how I could use this to summon help in case of an emergency.

I'm in the US, and as far as I know, it isn't possible to send text messages to 911. The only idea I've come up with is that I could send a text to a friend, and ask them to call 911 or the local authorities in my area and relay the information. This is inefficient, and requires that I find a friend who is by their phone. Is there a more direct way?

I'd prefer answers that don't require special equipment or pre-arranged services other than a standard cell phone.

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It seems like you are answering your own question: In the US it is currently not possible to text 911, if you want to get help via text message, you have to text a fiend/family member. Other ways require special equipment (for example a SPOT device), which you don't want to use. By the way, I have heard (but don't rely on this with your life) that often, even when a regular phone call won't go through, a call to 911 will. – DudeOnRock Jun 17 '13 at 4:16
I'm often in this same situation, where the nearest cell signal is miles away. There's the rule "never hike alone" which helps with this, provided you're not too seriously hurt. Having said that, many of us do hike solo. Know some first aid, tell people where you're going to be and when, and leave a map, make sure your will's up-to-date. – Don Branson Jun 18 '13 at 19:24

Instead of sending a text message to a single person, you might think of using a group SMS to increase the chance for having a friend forwarding the call to 911. Or use whatsapp in a group, in that case you see it will be send (and possibly received).

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I didn't know this, but in fact, the ability to send text messages to 911 is being developed and could be ready within a year or two.

The four major US wireless carriers expect to be ready to route text messages to 911 by May 15, 2014. However, it may take longer for local emergency dispatch centers to be able to handle them. The system will be rolled out gradually; starting September 30, 2013 (June 30, 2013 for the major carriers), you will at least get a bounce-back if the system isn't available in your area.

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Not a direct answer, but to expand a bit it is possible in the UK, however you need to register your mobile first and it's really meant for those who are hard of speech or hearing rather than poor signal areas. Having said that, if you do register and then text in a poor signal area and give details of your location, I'm sure the emergency would still be dealt with - so much better than nothing.

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As a note, the UK is currently considering the possibility of making all providers share coverage in rural areas which would help improve the UK rural situation. – Aravona Jun 30 '14 at 13:30

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