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Techly Explains

Techly Explains: How does ‘emergency calls only’ mode work when I have no reception?

There are few greater annoyances in the modern world – serious #firstworldproblems here – than having zero coverage, and thus your phone showing up as being able to make ’emergency calls only’ (or, if you’re an Apple user, ‘SOS only’).

That is unless, of course, you are in an emergency situation, in which case those three little words are everything you wanted in the world.

But how can it be that your phone has zero coverage, yet is still able to connect to emergency services?

Well, it tends to be that it’s not that there is zero coverage, merely that your particular carrier does not have service in your location.

Chris Althaus from the Australia Mobile Telecommunications Association explained that ’emergency calls only’ means you’re only really able to piggyback on to a different carrier.

“‘SOS only’ typically means that your phone is outside the coverage area of the service providers you’re contracted to; however, if you are still within range of somebody’s mobile network, you will still be able to make a triple-zero call,” he told the ABC.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) explains that “special roaming capabilities” make it possible for your phone to acccess a different carrier.

However, ACMA also warns that it’s possible that there can simply be no coverage – a point Althaus also wanted to emphasise.

“The coverage is the critical thing — if there’s no coverage, then no mobile will work,” he said.

“If you’re heading to the outback, you might want to consider other options, like two-way radio, CB radio, high-frequency radios, or have a flare with you… you shouldn’t rely on having your phone with you, because it might not work.”

It’s worth noting, however, that while being out of credit or failing to pay your phone bill will likely see your provider cut your service, you can still access emergency services from your phone in these situations.

You can reach Triple Zero even when your mobile has low battery, you’ve run out of credit or your plan has reached its limit. Our research showed over 80% of respondents knew that you could still get through to Triple Zero. #FactsFriday #FridayFacts #TripleZero #research #statistics #didyouknow

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As for situations where you can get through to emergency services, but don’t know where you are, ACMA recommends using the Emergency+ smartphone app to call Triple Zero (000).

“The app provides you with your GPS coordinates which you can tell the emergency call-taker, allowing them to pinpoint your location,” ACMA explains.

You can download the Emergency+ app free of charge here.

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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