Myths about Cell Phone Emergency Uses

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

Over the years, I’ve collected a series of emails about cell phones’ emergency uses and finally got a chance to research and test them.

The following tips sounded so promising but turned out to be myths after all:

  1. If you get locked out of your call, call someone at home and have them find your spare key.  Sound the clicker to unlock your cell phone from afar.  I first tried this by parking the car a few doors away.  It seemed to work but it turned out the normal clicker radius still covered where I was parked.   Once I parked the car a few blocks away this did not work.   I started to research this online and it turns out the Mythbusters team tried it too and this idea was “Busted”   You cannot unlock your car using your cell phone.
  2. Dial 1-1-2 anywhere in the world to get emergency help.   I researched this one and there may be some areas (such as a few places in Europe) where 112 will direct your call to the emergency line but it is not universally true everywhere.  Don’t count on it, 9-1-1 is still the number to call for emergencies.
  3. Dialing *3370# when your cell battery is low will “unlock” reserve battery power.  Not true, you need to keep your cell phone charged at all times.
  4. If you press *#06#  you can find out your secret cell phone code; keep the code in case it ever gets stolen so you can disable it remotely.  The easy way to disable a stolen cell phone is to call your cell phone service provider to report the theft.  Give them your phone number and they will take care of it.  That’s why it’s a prudent habit to keep a written list of important phone numbers in a safe place.

This one is TRUE:  You can call 1-800-FREE411 for free directory assistance.

I tried the number 1-800-FREE411 (1-800-373-3411) and found that is works.  You do have to listen to an ad that tells you to click the * if you want to follow the ad – don’t click or you will be redirected – then the menu comes up.

Another one that is TRUE Inactive cell phones can still call 9-1-1

The one thing that is true is you can use a charged cell phone, even though it no longer has cell service, to make an emergency call.  However, the cell phone must be properly charged to make the 911 call.  (Do not call 911 just to test it.)  Don’t throw away that old cell phone that you just disconnected from service:

  • Keep it (along with the charger) in your glove box as a spare cell for emergency
  • Save the phone and the charger; give it to someone to use as an emergency phone.
  • Donate it.  AT&T and other cell stores have a donation bin.

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  1. I’m not sure about in the states, but here in Canada, 911 does not work everywhere. I live in a very rural part of Northern Ontario and was told when I moved here not to call 911 for emergencies. We have our own regular phone number to call and it will go to our local emergency station. If we call 911 we will get someone on the line but they will not be our local station and will have no idea where we are. If we are unable to tell them our exact location they could end up sending help to the wrong place. Even if we can tell the person where we are located the time that help will arrive will be lengthened because we will not be talking to our local emergency station.

    1. Hi Fiona, Good to know 911 does not work in certain areas Northern Ontario being one of them -thanks for the comment!

  2. Pressing the *#06# on some phones (at least my AT&T phone) gives you the phones IEMI number or serial number, Could be handy if you have it, But like you said calling your service provider and giving them your phone number works just as well.

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