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Following a Disaster, a Landline Phone is Often More Reliable Than a Cell Phone.
According to a recent study, more than 50% of people no longer use landline phone service. They are totally dependent on their cell phones. According to the same study, 71% of 24 to 34 year-olds solely use cell phones.
The logic for many is obvious. I pay a lot for my cell phone service so why should I pay for a landline that never rings anymore? That makes sense, especially if your finances are tight, but the old landline phones may be one of your best bets for communication in a disaster.
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Cell Phone Versus Landline
Cell phones are portable, battery-powered phones that use wireless transmission to exchange verbal and digital information. Their features and benefits continue to improve, but like most complex technologies, they have some fragile weak points:
- The battery needs to be recharged, sometimes daily. A solar recharger or a USB recharge slot in a vehicle can solve the power outage problem, but without a powered battery, the phone will not operate.
- “Can you hear me now?” is still a good question. Connectivity continues to be a challenge in some areas, even in the best conditions.
- A power outage will quickly compromise cell phone service. Transmission towers are dependent on electricity and, while many have backup generators, some are reported to only have sufficient backup measured in hours.
- Cell phone service can be overwhelmed and if the volume of calls exceeds normal limits, your call may not go through. This is common in many areas where disasters have occurred, compounding the problems already created by power outages.
- Texting could be a solution. If you only have a cell phone for communication and there are problems with connectivity, a text message will often squeak through even if you can’t make a phone call. Texting requires less digital transmission or bandwidth, so give it a try before you give up on the cell phone.
- Cell phones are fragile. Many have lamented the broken, glass screens on their phones, and if you drop it in the toilet or puddle or get it wet in any way, it may not work. Letting it sit while buried in a bowl of rice is often touted as a solution.
Landline technology has been around for more than a century. While that may make it seem antiquated, it also points to something else: dependability. Things don’t last for 100 years that don’t work. Better yet, because it’s “old” technology, its’ fundamental design is simpler.
In many respects, it’s the complexity of modern technology that makes it prone to failure. Simpler technologies tend to keep on working and over the years, the bugs have been worked out, so the system is stable.
9 Reasons to Keep Your Landline
1. Landlines Still Work During Power Outages
Many of us remember power outages from the past when we were surprised to find out the phone still worked. That’s because landline phones are powered by a small amount of power transmitted through the phone line itself rather than through independent electric lines.
A wired phone only needs between 6 and 12 volts at 30 milliamps to operate. In the grand scheme of things, that’s very little power compared to the amount needed for cell phone transmission towers.
Phone companies are better equipped to backup power outages on landlines. They have generators in place to keep power running through the hard-wired phone lines, but because the power draw is so small, the generators can operate for longer periods.
2. It’s a Backup to Your Cell Phone Service
From Hurricane Sandy to Katrina to the Polar Vortex storms in Texas, there has been a consistent pattern of cell phone failures over a period of weeks, if not months. That’s particularly ominous during the immediate aftermath of any disaster when families are desperate to connect with loved ones or need to contact the police or other emergency services.
3. You Can Still Call 911 Even If Your Landline Is Disconnected
The same legislation that requires cell phone service providers to allow a call to 911 even if the bill has not been paid started with landline services. The law requires that even if a hard-wired landline is out of service that it still connect to any call to 911. No guarantees, but that’s the law.
4. Landlines Automatically Report Your Location
If you do need to call 911, your address location will be visible to the person receiving the call. Although cell phones can reveal your geographical location and even an address in some instances, the location they often display is a vague spot on a map rather than a street address, city, or town.
5. Primitive Internet Usage Is Possible With a Landline
Modern computers run the Internet through wireless and wired connections to modems, broadband cable and even satellite dishes. They all require varying levels of electricity and functional integrity to work during a disaster. That’s highly problematic given the complexity of these systems. Fortunately, there is an option with a landline.
There was a time when the only connection to the Internet was through phone landlines. The transmission speed was slow measured in kilobits and graphics and video were impossible. However, email was pioneered during this stone age of the Internet and typed, verbal communication could still be possible.
You’ll need activated landline service and a way to hook up your computer to a landline, but if you’re so inclined, it’s worth giving it a try to see if it works and know that it’s there as a backup allowing limited but functional Internet access.
6. Sound Quality Tends To Be Excellent
If you’ve ever struggled to hear or speak to someone on a cell phone, you can blame the connectivity for the problem. Cell tower signals don’t make it to every area and even then, the signal can be weak. Landlines are more reliable in that regard, and you may be surprised at the sound quality if you haven’t used a landline in a while.
7. Landline Service Is Actually Cheap
The national average for a monthly payment for basic landline phone service is $35. That can add up on annual basis at $420, but if you live in an area prone to weather disasters or are an active prepper, it may be worth the investment.
Very few full-service cell plans are that inexpensive, but if you never hear that landline ring, you may need to remind yourself of how it could save you in a disaster.
8. Landlines Often Survive The Worst
A curious side note is that the Internet was initially designed to use landline phone wiring because it was determined that packet switching or the ability to reroute information on landlines would mean that any amount of destruction would still allow them to be operational.
In case you’re wondering, the destruction that was anticipated for the initial development of the Internet was total, global thermonuclear war, although some disagree with that. If landlines can still find a way to transmit under those circumstances, they should be able to stand up to a hurricane or unexpected ice storm.
9. The Phones Are Cheap
You can buy a brand new, traditional landline phone on Amazon for very little. Don’t forget the wire and maybe a phone jack or two if you’re just getting back into this. That low cost is remarkable when you consider how much some of us pay on a monthly basis over a year or more to upgrade to the next generation cell phone.
And There’s Always a Downside
Like anything, there are always cons to balance the pros. Here are a few to remember:
- Does your circle or network of family and friends have landlines? You could always assume you’ll call their cell phones, but if your cell phone isn’t working, there’s a possibility theirs may be compromised as well. The good news is that emergency services have landlines, so you’ll at least be able to call for help even when your family won’t or can’t answer the phone.
- Remember personal phone books? Many of us used to carry around a little notebook with phone numbers. The majority of landline phones don’t have the ability to store or display phone numbers. If you can’t remember the phone numbers, you’ll have to start writing them down again.
- Landlines can, in fact, fail. They’re more dependable in disastrous circumstances but even landlines aren’t full proof. There’s a lot of information about emergency communication from Ham radio to CB’s, so if you’re extremely concerned about emergency communication in a disaster, you might want to look into those alternatives as well.
Do You Need a Landline?
That depends on your level of concern and the potential for disaster in your location. The basic service is another monthly cost, but if you’re trying to prepare for disasters in a reasonable way, a functioning landline falls squarely in the category of a reasonable decision.
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