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Author Topic: Cell Phone Batteries and Calling 911
Angel With Wax Wings
Deck the Malls


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Okay a friend of mine, I'm not sure who, told me that as some sort of safety net or something, your cell phone will continue to work to call 911 even if it says the battery is dead. He said that there is ALWAYS just ENOUGH power to make a short 911 call. Is that true?

~Monica

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"Run for five minutes? Why don't you just shoot me now?"--Comic Book Guy (Simpsons)

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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That sounds pretty unlikely. What the phone companies would have to do is make the phone shut off before it it is really out of power every time you tried to make a call just to save power for the rare (hopefully) times you need to call 911. And what if it is an urgent situation like, "My car's dead. You need to pick Jimmy up at school." but your cell won't let you call because it is saving the power for 911?

I think this is probably a combination of two things. One, shutting off a cell phone and letting the battery "rest" can give you power for a short call. Two, all cell phone companies in the US must (by law) allow your cell phone to call 911 even if your service is suspended, disabled, or was never turned on. Add these two together and you get your friend's story.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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Black Belt and Socks
The First USA Noel


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I have a Motorola cell phone which I occasionally let run dry. Once the battery is dead, the phone will not turn on. It even needs to charge for several minutes before it will turn back on, it will not turn on with the charger attached.

BB&S

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"How dare your reality hinder my ability to believe what I want!" Joe Bentley

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NickFun
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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If the battery is dead you can call 911 to your hearts content but no one will hear you. My cell phone will turn on with the charger attached however. It is like a power cord. Don't let your battery die. Also, the police need to be able to track you on the built in GPS device which most cell phones have. This requires juice.

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Depends on the phone; my old Samsung had some reserve battery power for emergency dialing only.

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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Alluvian
I Saw Three Shipments


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I agree with GenYus.
I have been told that land lines are the same way. Even if you don't pay your phone bill and they shut off your phone, I think you can still dial 911 and connect.

I have never tested this of course as dialing 911 for no reason is not legal.

In fact I have only dialed 911 ONCE. My mother put 911 on my speed-dial once and I bumped it with my cheek while cradling the phone and using both hands to look up the number I wanted.

Once I heard the three tones and the ring I immediately hung up. It only rang once, but the joys of caller ID meant that 911 called me back about 2 seconds later asking if there was an emergency. I explained and apologized and they said it was okay, but to not just hang up next time. If they could not have reached me they would have had to send out the police.

I NEVER put 911 on speed dial. It is three friggan numbers! Having it on a speed dial you never use and forget about will not help you when you need it. It will more likely slow you down trying to remember what speed dial it is on. Plus I felt badly about cranking them by accident. Those lines need to be there for those that need them.

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Steph
I Saw Three Shipments


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quote:
Originally posted by Alluvian:

I immediately hung up. It only rang once, but the joys of caller ID meant that 911 called me back about 2 seconds later asking if there was an emergency. I explained and apologized and they said it was okay, but to not just hang up next time. If they could not have reached me they would have had to send out the police.

My younger sister did that once when she was about 5 years old. She learned about dialing 911 at pre-school. She came home and tried it out, then hung up when the police answered. Thirty mins later our house was surrounded by police. It was terrifying. When things finally settled down, no one had any clue what was going on until my little sister started balling her eyes out... Looking back, it was quite humerous. BY the way, if your battery is dead you cant make a call. You also cannot dial 911 from a land line that has no service, you have no active line to dial out on.
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shebeeinks
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I think what the "friend" in the OP might be talking about is when CORDLESS phones first came out, not cell phones. Americans called cordless phone, mobile phones(pronounced mo'bul). Whereas Europeans call cell phone, mobiles(pronounced mo'bi les).
Cordless phones had a safety feature in them that would dail 911 by themself if they were not put back on the cradle to recharge. The safety feasure was sort of like a emergency beacon. The idea for this was if the owner didn't recharge it they must be in some sort of trouble i.e. dead, coma, "I've fallen and I can't get up", ect.
Needless to say, I lot of people had the cops or EMT's show up at their homes because they simply forgot to recharge the stupid things.
The reason I know this is because my husbands elderly mother was ALWAYS forgetting to recharge her phone. It got to a point that the police wouldn't go to the house(they'd call and she'd answer the wall mounted phone) and then would call me at work to tell me to make sure it got charged.We finally "broke" it and bought her a different one that didn't call 911 by itself.
I hope this helps. Plus I'm sorry if it is long-winded

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TuFurg
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by AnglRdr:
Depends on the phone; my old Samsung had some reserve battery power for emergency dialing only.

That doesn't make sense to me. If this were true, you could dial "911" forever and never expect the battery to die?

I can see it having reserve power, but the battery is gonna die eventually.

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TuFurg
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by shebeeinks:

Cordless phones had a safety feature in them that would dail 911 by themself if they were not put back on the cradle to recharge.

Wow, I was about to say that sounds like an UL right there, then I came across a coupl eot cites.

http://www.ci.kirkland.wa.us/depart/police/911.htm

Also there's this thread with an account of how it led someone to believe they had a haunted phone. Of course even after they were given the explanation, they conclude the phone is still haunted. [Roll Eyes]

http://forumz.tomshardware.com/games/ghost-telephone-ftopict50127.html

That has got to be one of the dumbest things I've heard... can't recharge your phone so ya must be dyin'!! [Confused]

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chillas
Coventry Mall Carol


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quote:
Originally posted by shebeeinks:
Americans called cordless phone, mobile phones(pronounced mo'bul).

We did?

quote:
Originally posted by shebeeinks:

Cordless phones had a safety feature in them that would dail 911 by themself if they were not put back on the cradle to recharge. The safety feasure was sort of like a emergency beacon. The idea for this was if the owner didn't recharge it they must be in some sort of trouble i.e. dead, coma, "I've fallen and I can't get up", ect.

Er ... no.

Explanation

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by TuFurg:
quote:
Originally posted by AnglRdr:
Depends on the phone; my old Samsung had some reserve battery power for emergency dialing only.

That doesn't make sense to me. If this were true, you could dial "911" forever and never expect the battery to die?

I can see it having reserve power, but the battery is gonna die eventually.

Which is why I said "some," and not "an unlimited supply."

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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abigsmurf
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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every mobile I've owned will let you dial 999 or 112 even if the key lock is on.

That must cause the emergency services all sorts of fun

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Die Capacitrix
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by shebeeinks:
Americans called cordless phone, mobile phones(pronounced mo'bul). Whereas Europeans call cell phone, mobiles(pronounced mo'bi les).

Nitpick. The European Union has 20 official languages. I sincerely doubt all 20 use the term mobile.

In German speaking Switzerland the common term is "handy". It used to be (and still is, for some people) "Natel" which came from Nationales Autotelefonnetz (national car telephone network). /Nitpick

Slightly related to the OP: Many of the structures here are reinforced concrete, which does wonders for the signal strength. Within these buildings only SOS calls are possible. Many (if not most) public underground parking lots and buildings (as well as car and train tunnels) have signal repeaters to combat this problem.

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Wintermute
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Complete myth. Cell phones have no special capability to dial any number when the battery is dead. If the battery is dead the phone is dead. Now, all cell phone should always be able to call 911. You should be able to pick up that cell phone you turned off 5 years ago, turn it on, and be able to dial 911. Even though you do not have a phone number the HLR is supposed to allow 911 calls. This is a federal mandate, and is fixed when flaws are found.
Smurf, you are right about american cell phones and 911. The mandate says if you should be able to 911 if the handset is on. (Paraphrasing) So, if the keypad is locked you should still be able to dial 911.

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Johnny Slick
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Tangentially, what we Americans call "cordless phones" are landline phones with antennae instead of phone cords. They aren't exactly mobile because you can't really leave the house with them, but they most certainly are cordless. And just to make things more confusing and therefore more fun, back in the day we had "portable phones" too. Those were those huge monsters you stuck in your car. Not actually "cordless" since the phone in the car weighed a freaking ton so it had a detachable receiver, not "mobile" in the sense you can walk around with it, but "portable" in that it was in your car and you didn't need to snake 8 miles worth of phone cord behind you.

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TuFurg
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by AnglRdr:
quote:
Originally posted by TuFurg:
quote:
Originally posted by AnglRdr:
Depends on the phone; my old Samsung had some reserve battery power for emergency dialing only.

That doesn't make sense to me. If this were true, you could dial "911" forever and never expect the battery to die?

I can see it having reserve power, but the battery is gonna die eventually.

Which is why I said "some," and not "an unlimited supply."
I had read your comment "depends on the phone" as a response to the OP- as if you were saying that some phones do indeed have the capability of 'always' having enough power to make a short call.
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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I think this rumour started because modern phones actually shut down before the battery is completely dead. When not under load, the battery may regain a little power, which may allow you to make a very brief call. Also, most phones need some time to assess the battery, and will remain on for a short while before deciding to shut down.

However, the reason for this has nothing to do with emergencies, it is much simpler. Many modern phones have LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries (somtimes called LiPoly), which may actually be destroyed if they drop below a certain voltage. Most other modern batteries are not that sensitive, but none like being completely discharged. So, when the voltage drops below a certain point, the phone turns off.

quote:
Also, the police need to be able to track you on the built in GPS device which most cell phones have.
Actually, it's not the GPS they use and most cellphones don't have a GPS. The ones that have one use it to display GPS position to the person using the phone, it is not transmitted (unless special software for this is installed, but this is special applications and nothing that will be useful for the police).

What they actually use to position a phone is the information they recieve from the base stations. They can tell the approximate direction from each base station in range. This gives a surprisingly accurate position, especially in rural areas where there are many base stations. While not as good as a GPS, it's still good enough for emergency use. It is also much less sensitive to radio shadows from building, wet trees and other stuff that sometime eff up GPS.

This means that the more paranoid out there should turn off their cell phones when not using them or buy an anonymous cash card (in the countries where this is possible), as they could very well be tracked by anyone with access to this information. Or, if they want to create some meaningless havoc in the unlikely case of someone actually watching them, they could mail their phones (while switched on) all over the world.

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/Troberg

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Joseph Z
Xboxing Day


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The cellular will die regardless if it's a 911 call.

It's always best to bring your cellular car / portable AC indoor charger if your going on long trips away from plugging it in or if your a hardcore chatter.

However there was a news broadcast that a decision is being put in for E911 in cellulars that add a GPS tracking device for if your call even goes blank the GPS may still work to pinpoint your current location to the authorities.

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Joseph Z

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Johnny Slick
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
Actually, it's not the GPS they use and most cellphones don't have a GPS. The ones that have one use it to display GPS position to the person using the phone, it is not transmitted (unless special software for this is installed, but this is special applications and nothing that will be useful for the police).

What they actually use to position a phone is the information they recieve from the base stations. They can tell the approximate direction from each base station in range. This gives a surprisingly accurate position, especially in rural areas where there are many base stations. While not as good as a GPS, it's still good enough for emergency use. It is also much less sensitive to radio shadows from building, wet trees and other stuff that sometime eff up GPS.

This means that the more paranoid out there should turn off their cell phones when not using them or buy an anonymous cash card (in the countries where this is possible), as they could very well be tracked by anyone with access to this information. Or, if they want to create some meaningless havoc in the unlikely case of someone actually watching them, they could mail their phones (while switched on) all over the world.

The E911 tracking technology in phones is (incorrectly) referred to as "GPS" though, and in that respect, yes, the vast majority of phones on the market today have that chip in them. In fact, the FCC told the carriers 2 years ago that by the beginning of 2006 95% of their users would need to have the chip in their phones. So far, to my knowledge only one of the national service providers has been able to comply, but the ones that are off are at like 90%, not 22%.

Other than 911, companies have by and large not found a lot of use for the chip. The paranoiacs may disagree, but most large business just don't care that much about where you are except as it impacts how much to charge you for stuff. Maybe in 20 years when there's a national map that shows the location of every Starbuck's in the world and your current proximity to the closest 5 there will be a use for them, but for now... a couple companies have or will shortly begin to have on-phone driving navigators, and that's just about it. I heard Sprint has/had a "game" where you would try to track other gamers down by locating them via the GPS. That sounds like such a horrendous idea that I think it has to be a UL, but I am not sure either way.

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Shadowduck
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny Slick:
I heard Sprint has/had a "game" where you would try to track other gamers down by locating them via the GPS. That sounds like such a horrendous idea that I think it has to be a UL, but I am not sure either way.

Would you believe there's even GPS-based virtual fishing?

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But of course, I could be wrong.

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Wintermute
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Originally posted by Johnny Slick:
Other than 911, companies have by and large not found a lot of use for the chip. The paranoiacs may disagree, but most large business just don't care that much about where you are except as it impacts how much to charge you for stuff.

I could not disagree more with this statement. They have found major uses for the technology but they have not been able to get them to work correctly. The big use they want to do is location services. The idea is that as you walk by McDonalds then your phone would receive ads, coupons, etc from Mcdonalds. You walk by an icecream store you might see an ad for their products. Location based services in my opinion would drive me INSANE!

quote:
I heard Sprint has/had a "game" where you would try to track other gamers down by locating them via the GPS. That sounds like such a horrendous idea that I think it has to be a UL, but I am not sure either way.
We did a test when E911 first was live in the network. We would have employees go to locations and the noc would locate them. That was just a field trial of the system though.
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Johnny Slick
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Wintermute,

In the interests of symmetry, I am only going to post and respond to the first half of each sentence you wrote.
quote:
Originally posted by Wintermute:
I could not disagree

I am glad that we agree!
quote:
They have found major uses for the technology but they
but they WHAT? Yeah, I figured you didn't have an answer. [Roll Eyes]

quote:
The big use they want
An agreer is me. The big use they want. The little use they don't want. Use they want not want. Means me.

quote:
The idea is that as you walk by McDonalds
That's my idea, too. Just walk on by. Yuck.

quote:
You walk by an icecream store
Whoa there, cowboy. Maybe YOU walk by an ice cream store, but the Slick loves the ice cream almost as much as he loves chocolate soy milk.

quote:
Location based services in my
In your what? On second thought, maybe you should not answer this.

quote:
We did a test when E911
Umm, Wintermute, E911 is not a time. It is a technology. Or perhaps you were referring to Anno Domini 911, when King Edward the Elder ruled England. I can't tell for sure. You should really try to write more coherently.

quote:
We would have employees go to locations
That does sound wacky! But shouldn't you call them "serfs"? I'm not even sure business was invented in 911.

quote:
That was just a field
Oh, I get it! You sent them to a "location" that turned out to be "just a field". Medieval snipe hunting! Only more like orienteering! Kind of! Too bad they didn't have GPS chips back then, because then you could have used them!

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Gibbie
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Don't most cell phones have a setting to let you turn off the position location unless you dial 911? Mine does? The information says if I have allow the network to detect my postion it allows my service provider to possibly offer more services. By disabling it only emergency services can use it.

On a side note, it does work for emergency services. I was on the highway once and called 911 to report aa group of motorcyclists that were popping wheelies, blocking both lanes of the highway and preventing cars from passing, riding with out plates and riding without helmets. I noticed when I dialed 911 that my phone made a stange tone I'd never heard before. I made my call, reported location (direction heading and current mile marker) and made my report. Perhaps 15 minutes after I hung up, I heard my phone make that same tone I'd heard while dialing. At the next cut out (where the police usually set up for radar traps) I saw a state trooper pulling into place, presumably to look for my rogue bikers.

Gibbie

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