What would you do if you encountered an emergency, attempted to call 911 on your cell phone, and realized that you had no signal?
Not being able to rely on our cell phones would be disastrous! They are such a staple in society now and provide us with the ability to communicate at any given moment, especially during an emergency.
We need to figure this out so that we can move on.: can you call 911 without a signal?
Yes, you can still call 911 even if your phone says “No service.” Your phone will automatically connect to the nearest available tower.
That is definitely comforting to know.. Did you know that when your phone says it has “no signal,” it doesn’t necessarily mean there is no signal at all? Most of the time, it just means you’re not in range of one of your carrier’s towers. Pretty interesting, right?
If you don’t have cellphone signal, can you still contact 911?
Even if Your Phone Says It Has “No Bars”, You Probably Still Have Signal
A lot of people think that they need bars on their phone to get a signal, but that’s entirely false.
How is this even possible? The word “bars” is just a term to describe how strong or weak the signal strength is on your phone.
Even if your phone says it has full signal strength with another tower, you may only see one flickering bar. The connection to the approved tower could be tenuous or there might be some issue with the other tower.
In actuality, your phone is always sending and receiving information from nearby towers for a variety of reasons: to establish a connection if you move out of one tower’s range, to find a stronger signal, etc.
phrases such as “no bars” or “no service” on your phone only refers to the fact that your carrier’s towers are not close by, not that there is no signal at all.
What is the process of cell phones and networks communicating with each other?
To better understand how your phone communicates with cell phone towers, it is informative to know the surprisingly complex system that makes such communication possible.
The radio waves emitted from your phone connect you to the nearest cell tower when you make a call or utilize data.
The tower relays the information to the telephone company’s central Switching center via landlines or fiber optics.
When you make a call, the signal goes to the nearest cell tower and then onto the called party’s phone using radio waves. The process is reversed when someone else calls you.
In other words, our phones are like two-way radios that communicate through towers using radio waves. If you’re familiar with traditional radio systems, you know that anyone can send, receive, and listen at any time if they tune into the right frequency.
Why can’t our cell phones use any nearby tower, when that would make sense?
Usually, when you have no signal, it means that you don’t have permission.
The issue isn’t that your phone can’t communicate with other towers; it’s that it’s not allowed to by your network carrier.
In layman’s terms, each phone company rents space from the cell tower owner so that their customers can make calls. A Sprint customer could technically use a Verizon tower, but they would need special permission to do so.
The only time this occurs is when you have “roaming” turned on and you are making or receiving a call outside of your home area or usual coverage zone. In some circumstances, your phone might automatically connect to another carrier’s towers even if you don’t have roaming turned on, but usually happens for functions that involuntarily send signals over the network like text, email, calls, etc.
For example, your phone might automatically connect to a tower in order to be able to transmit at a future time. However, under certain conditions, your phone will be able immediately send information over these non-network towers during an emergency.
Users can make emergency calls even when their network is locked out.
Now that we know that your phone can receive a signal even when it says it has “no bars”, the next logical question is: can you use another carrier’s tower to make an emergency call? The answer is yes! In most cases, your phone will not be able to send or receive data over any tower that is not part of your carrier’s network. However, there are some emergency functions that override this lockout.
For example, all cell phones in the United States are legally required to be able to connect to 911- even if you can’t access a networked tower or don’t have an active service plan! This feature is build into the phone itself. So, even if you have zero bars and no apparent service, you can still dial 911 (or press the emergency call button) and connect with a dispatcher at a center nearby who then send help your way.
There are international emergency numbers that can be used outside of your regular network coverage, but they differ depending on the country you’re in.
Emergency services cannot be reached if there is no cell phone service.
What happens to your phone when there is truly no signal- not even one bar, no service, and not a single radio wave?
If that worst case occurs and you’re cut off from cellular service, your phone will be useless for contacting emergency services. This goes to show that cell phones are not perfect despite their many capabilities. You should never use them as your only means of communication or assistance in an emergency situation—regardless of whether you have a signal or not.
Luckily, you can take some precautions to always be able to place an emergency call while traveling.
One way is by looking at signal maps which show the coverage of all cellular phone towers in a specific region.
If you’re experiencing difficulty with your cell phone service, you might want to buy an external antenna that mounts on your vehicle or even installs on the phone. These devices almost always