Your voicemail can be a lifesaver in times of disaster

Michael Burlace

Most people who have a mobile phone have a message bank or a voicemail service as part of the deal.

Many who have a fixed phone/NBN service have a message bank or a voicemail service as part of the deal.

Depending who provides your service and what level of service you get, you may be able to access voicemail remotely or when your mobile is dead or out of range.

And even if you have no remote access, if you are in a tricky situation such as having to evacuate in floods, you can use that voicemail service to assist others who may be concerned about you.

By changing your message you can alert callers to your situation and give them vital information.

Before your phone battery goes flat and before you leave an area with reception do this:

Change your message to clearly and simply state what is happening. For example:

“Hi, this is Kim and Chris and we are evacuating with kids and pets because of flooding. We expect to be in the Mugwump evacuation centre by 2pm today, February 28. We may not have phone reception there and may need to move on as events develop. If it’s urgent, please contact my (sister, son etc) on 04XX. I’ll repeat that number in a moment. We will try to keep this message updated. Here’s my (sister, son etc) number again 04XX.”

Once you reach the centre, update the message if you can.

If you can’t, it will have to wait until you get to an area with reception.

You can usually access your message bank from any phone – landline or mobile – as long as you have the message bank password – not the same as your phone password.

The method will vary, see below.

This bit is key

Remember, it is really important to update the message as circumstances change so you don’t create fresh problems.

Our community support crews have better things to do than go hunting for people who are safe.

Other points

If after you get full access to your phone service your calls are still going straight to your message bank you may have Aeroplane Mode or Do Not Disturb turned on.

To turn it off you may be able to pull down a menu from the top of your screen. Otherwise go to your Settings, select Do Not Disturb or Aeroplane Mode and toggle it off.

Texts (SMS no pictures, emojis or videos) can often get through where phone calls, data services and MMS (multimedia messages) can’t.

Telstra outages website may give some clarity on what is happening if you can’t get through.

Here’s how my phone service handles it using Telstra’s message bank

If I can’t use my phone – it is dead flat or I’m out of range, I use another phone to call my mobile and when the call diverts to voicemail and I hear my greeting, I press the hatch key # and type in my password and it gives me all the usual options.

I can get my messages, save any that are relevant and create a new greeting.

If you don’t know your voicemail pin, the default is usually the last 4 digits of your phone number or 0000 – that’s how those celebrities had their phones hacked, they hadn’t changed their pins.

Can you access your home phone’s messages through another service provider?

Telstra home messages 101, no. Telstra message bank, yes. Optus home, office or mobile, see the section below.

If you are using Telstra Home Messages 101, you will have the standard greeting that cannot be changed. If you are using Telstra’s message bank it can be changed to a personalised greeting. Follow the prompts after your messages have played.

There’s more information at How do I set up and manage MessageBank®, call forwarding and extended ring time?

To change your message bank greeting:

Call 101 on your Telstra mobile

You’ll hear any new voice messages first and then be directed to the main menu

Press 3 for Mailbox Setup

Press 1 for Greetings

Press 1 to record your new personal greeting then follow the prompts

NBN voicemail

Those who have done it say you need to ring your own number and during the greeting message, press # and enter the PIN followed by the # key again.

For some users, that only works if you use the NBN virtual number rather than the advertised business number.

Optus voicemail

To access Optus mobile phone voicemail from another phone:

Dial 0411 000 321

When prompted Enter your mailbox number, key in your mobile phone number in the form 04XX XXX XXX. (Don’t type the spaces)

Enter your PIN

Follow the prompts to retrieve your voicemail

Calls are charged at the rate for 13 numbers on the phone network you call in on.

To access your office or home phone’s voicemail from another phone:

Dial 133 321

When prompted Enter your mailbox number, key in your Office/Home Phone number, including its area code (eg. 02 XXXX XXXX). (Don’t type the spaces)

Press #

Enter your passcode/PIN

Press #

Listen to your messages

Calls are charged at the rate for 13 numbers on the phone network you call in on.

For more support go here.

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