Calling 911 With No Service…Is it even possible?

It’s a scary thought — what if you need to call 911 but can’t get service on your phone?

After all, emergencies can happen anywhere, and when they do, 911 might be the only way you can get help. I hope you aren’t ever in a situation like this, but it’s a normal question.

Is it even possible to contact emergency services without any signal? 

Yes, you can still make a successful call to 911 even if your device has no network signal and/or is not equipped with a wireless calling plan. However, this is not always guaranteed, and calling 911 when you do not have service will limit what the operator can do to help you. 

In this article, I’ll explain how you can still reach 911 services even if your device does not have a network signal.

I’ll also explain how calling without a strong signal might impede 911 services (and what both parties can do to overcome this), so please make sure you don’t miss it. 

How Can You Call 911 Without Service But Not Other Phones?

It’s common knowledge amongst cell phone users that no signal basically means no phone functions, period.

Text and phone calls will fail, internet access is out of the question, and most apps won’t even work properly. So, how is it that you can somehow reach 911 in a service dead zone?

When you make a 911 call, your phone utilizes its emergency call function to send a signal to the nearest cell tower, regardless of your service plan. This is largely done to ensure no one is deprived of 911 services and that you are calling the emergency center closest to you, so response time is as quick as possible. 

As long as your call can reach a usable tower within range (be it a Verizon, T-Mobile, Xfinity, etc.) then you should be able contact 911. 

The “no service” or low bar indicators you see on your phone are only reflecting the signal you’re receiving from approved towers owned by your service company.

They do not include towers owned by other companies that might provide your phone with full service for your 911 call. 

That being said, there is a small chance that you are located somewhere that is too far out of range for any tower to pick up your phone’s signal.

In these instances, you’ll need to find a way to either boost your signal or contact help with an alternative method. 

But what happens if you call 911 and it goes to voicemail? I wrote an entire article on what to do if your 911 call goes to voicemail. Click the link to check it out.

How Does No Service Affect A 911 Call?

Now that you’ve made your 911 call and are speaking to your 911 operator, you might be wondering if your lack of service will somehow affect their ability to help you. 

The biggest problem that arises from calling 911 when your device does not have service is that your phone won’t be able to deliver your location to the 911 call center. This means that if you do not know your exact location to relay to your 911 operator, they have no way to accurately locate you.

Typically, when these instances occur, 911 operators can locate callers by hanging up and calling them back. Once they do this, their location should be apparent.

Yes, you read that right, 911 may hang up on you, but they will call you back to get your location.

I wrote an entire article that explains whether 911 can really hang up on you. Check it out.

Unfortunately, if you were to call without service, they wouldn’t be able to perform this method or call you back if the call is somehow dropped or fails. 

How Can I Boost My Signal For A 911 Call?

If you live in an area with spotty service or are traveling in a remote area, there are a few things you can do to try and boost your signal before making a call to 911.

Some options you can try are to:

  • Reduce distance to cell towers by traveling towards a populated region
  • Turn Airplane mode off and then on to refresh the signal
  • Use a signal booster to improve your cell phone’s signal strength
  • Close all phone tabs and apps as they might be impeding phone functions

An alternative method you could try is to utilize your phone’s Wi-Fi to contact 911. If your phone is incapable of making a call using cellular service, it will use Wi-Fi if available.

So, if you have a Wi-Fi network or can create a hotspot to connect to, this might be the easiest way to get help. 

Hopefully, you never have to call 911, but if you do, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether your phone has service.

As long as you aren’t in a severely remote area with no nearby cell towers for hundreds of miles, your call should get through to a 911 operator for help. Just remember that without service, their options might be limited.