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Keep Your Communication Options Open in Case of Emergencies

Sometimes old school technology, or none at all, is the most effective way to deal with emergency situations

The old expression “hanging by the telephone” might confuse anyone under 30 these days. They have no idea what it was like before the advent of cell phones, and for those under 40, they may not remember a time without call-waiting or even answering machines. You had to wait at home for important phone calls.

Fast forward to today: You find yourself in a wireless dead zone or your battery dies. Desperation sets in. How will I call home? How can I connect with those I am supposed to have a business meeting?

Enter old school technology

Do you know that an address book also refers to a small book that has room for alphabetical listing of your friends, family and business contacts with their numbers, addresses and other information? Even if you don’t want to be a late adopter of this technology a slip of paper tucked in your wallet (not the virtual one) with important phone numbers can be an invaluable backup.

With the 911 failure after the , I was happy to have the non-emergency number for the police available on my phone contacts, but I also realized that maybe I should have it written down. Back in olden times, before 9-11, people kept notes by their phones with police, fire, poison control and other emergency contacts.

With power outages we found that the world around us was also effective. Gas stations, ATMs, grocery stores were not available in neighborhoods that were affected. Growing up in South Florida, we knew that when there were storm warnings we needed to fill tanks and get cash out for emergencies. This is more important, perhaps, than our region’s rush to stock up with toilet paper and milk before small snowstorms.

Landline phones, what is known in tech circles as POTS (plain old telephone service), play a role even with the emergency is a lack of a phone charger. If you need to get in touch, find a phone and leave a message with voicemail or even a live person. If you are away on a business or pleasure trip, family and friends should be notified of where you are staying before you leave.

If there is an urgent message, they can contact your hotel and leave a note for you at the front desk. And if you need to get in touch with home, most hotels have phones in the rooms (ok, being a bit cheeky here, they all do) where, for a charge, you can make that call.

Life without the machines

We all tend to get a bit panicky when our technology doesn’t do what we want it to do. We haven’t yet found a way to use all that nervous energy to add back to the power grid. Have a few backups in place using technology that has served us in the past. Paper, pencil, planning. Ask someone a bit older perhaps for how they solved their communication needs.

And if your whole life is stored in virtual form that would be lost forever with the loss of just one or two devices, create a backup regime with a trusted provider that could be accessed from other devices. The most important information such as bank accounts, insurance contacts, medical information deserves both paper and virtual storage.

Most of us are optimists by nature, but we have a responsibility to be prepared. Even if that preparation is to just avoid frustration. When technology fails, remember not being able to access Facebook is not something to stress over. I think we all learned that being offline every now and then can be a nice break. Especially on vacation!

Roxanne Cramer July 19, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Ham is fine...for the few who have it! But how about those landline phones that DID NOT WORK on June 30?! I remember the day when the phones could always be counted on when the power went out.
George July 19, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Roxanne, good question. The term "POTS" or Plain old Telephone Service, was used above. Many folks think they still have a plain old telephone. This was the system where the telephone provider sent 48 volts to your house for your phone. It almost always worked. If you still have just a normal phone, it may be the same POTS system back to your Central Office, this is no more than several thousands of feet from your phone. After the CO the signal is digital, so when the pathway is interrupted, so is your ability to communicate. Cell towers receive the signal from your cell, and normally, convert it and send it on it's merry way using the same method, so again, when that is interrupted, so is your ability to communicate. Keeping the old system running along the way it had for nearly 100 years is just too expensive now when a single fiber optic cable can handle many thousands of conversations. Of course, if you have a VoIP phone (Voice over Internet Protocol) and your internet provider is interrupted, you have the same problem, so if your phone is with Verizon, Cox, or one of those, again, same story, your service was interrupted. Last I checked, there were nearly a million hams in the US. When we give tests every second Saturday of the month we add at least 10-15 and we are one small club in one area. George
Sally Spangler August 03, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Not being a "chatter-box" the telephone is good enough for the lengthy phone calls between my sister in Roanoke an myself in Lorton. These marathon phone calls are maybe once a week. Cell phone? wellllllllllllllllllllllll - a big nuisance. I have to remember to keep it charged, for one thing and since it hasn't been used all that often, I have to look thru the directions to figure out how to make and receive a call. My real conversation maker is instant message. Now that gets used daily. The other conversation maker - good old email! Want to talk history - when telephones had rings, rather than private number. No exchanges as the one for our family phone in DC pre-WWII When we finally got one, it was CO for Columbia. Later it became CO-4xxxx. When I moved here to Lorton, I was on a 4 party line. Sometimes I had to pick up the phone to remind the two ladies who were maybe 100 feet apart, that maybe, just maybe I needed to call someone. The griping I got from them - oh well, they didn't have much to do during the day, so they spent it talking rather than go to the other home and sit and talk. I would have rather had a person to see and talk to. That was in the 1950s. Over and Out!
Sally Spangler August 03, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Further on about Ham Radio - COST!!!! All that equipment is expensive. Users need to have passed a test on radio usage. If you want to go mobile - more expense to include an antenna. Oh yes, either at home or mobile - you will have your own call sign. Some of the people make their call sign something easy to remember - a nick name or something having to do with the sender or something slightly off color! Ham Radio is also limited to the amount power you have and the length of you antenna. Yeah it is fun, don't forget only one person can talk and then signify - "over" so the receiver can talk. Grin! Any of you guys old enough to remember when ham was big with truckers? That's another subject by itself!
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