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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Hard Wired Phones

Interesting problem during a recent ice and snow event that caused a power outage in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood is transitioning from older, empty nest retirees to families just beginning to fill their nests. The young people are great, but when the power goes out and you've got babies and toddlers, their interest is at home, not necessarily with their neighbors.

Some of not quite ancient residents try to look out for our older neighbors. This can be a challenge when they have adopted some parts of modern technology but not others. For example,the elderly gentleman living across  the street had no cell phone and instead of a phone hard-wired to land line was using portable phones in his house.

When the power went out, his phones went out. Since his house was surrounded by snow and ice, he was trapped inside because he is too frail to risk falling on the ice. We were interested in checking on him but when we tried to call him . . . we couldn't get through.

Lessons learned:

  1. If you have elderly relatives, don't let them give up on their hard-wired telephones;
  2. And make sure they have at least one phone that is connected  by a cord to that wire (and that they have a cell phone, too, just in case);
  3. Make sure that relative knows to call you when there is a power outage in the winter (or during a heat wave) to let you know his/her status. Do not rely on the kindness of neighbors.
As it turned out, we took hot coffee and soup over to our neighbor once we were able to find out that he was both cold and unprepared for even this simple disaster.

A working phone would have really helped him.

UPDATE: I had to clear a path to  get to his house and pound on his door to be able to determine his status. Each relay of coffee and soup was an ice-filled adventure.  I really need a pair of crampons to protect myself in such conditions.

It was much later that it occurred to me that I could have taken one of the spare wired phones from our house over to his and plugged it in in place of his portable phone set up so that he could have called out in case he needed the police, firemen or EMTs. Having a cheap wired phone in the emergency kit for such purposes is a good idea. I've added one to mine.


  1. Good luck with that. My parents are fighting tooth and nail to keep their copper landline, but Verizon is telling them that the copper network is going to be taken down in the next few years.

  2. Anonymous3:40 AM

    There are a few base stations for cordless phones wherein the base station itself has a corded handset and will continue to work via telco power even when the mains power is out. We have one such unit chosen for just that reason.

  3. Like Verizon, AT&T also noted the death knell of copper (expensive to maintain).

    Cell phones are nice until they need a recharge without an available source.