Cold weather phone calls: a PSA

Just a reminder that if you are going out in the kind of weather Minnesota has around this time of year– do not rely on smartphones to make emergency calls!

If it gets cold enough, a smartphone will stop working. It can look like a battery failure, but I think it’s some kind of safeguard to make sure you don’t use it in weather that could damage it.

For example, on my way to work on the last Friday of 2017, a five-mile bike ride at -3 degrees Fahrenheit, my phone completely lost power. Luckily I didn’t need it while I was out. But when I got in to work, I tried to check my email and was met with all the signs of a dead battery.

But it can’t have been an ordinary dead battery, because when I plugged it in, it was almost instantly fully charged again. I think it just refused to admit it had battery power until it knew it was warm enough.

(Wish I could do that. “Can’t get out of bed this morning. I’m dead. Ooh… you turned the thermostat up! Yay! I’m alive again!”)

So– don’t assume your smartphone is gonna be there for you in sub-zero-Fahrenheit weather. Don’t assume a backup battery will help, either. Bring a wall-plug-in charger, and if you need to call someone, take shelter in a warm place with an outlet.

If there won’t be any places like that along your route, be sure to make plans beforehand with whoever you might need to contact. For example, John knows the route I take on my bike, so if I go missing and can’t call him, he knows where a search team will need to look for me. And, before I leave, I always tell him what time I’ll leave and whether I’ll take my bike route or the bus route, or ride with a coworker.

It’s getting into the negative double digits! Be safe out there!

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