How to Stay Connected During Hurricane Sandy - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

How to Stay Connected During Hurricane Sandy

NEW YORK (AP) - When disaster strikes, phone and Internet service often takes a hit, right when it's needed the most. Here are some tips for communicating with emergency services and loved ones as Sandy collides with the East Coast:

Cellphones may work even if the power goes out, but you can't count on them. The phones themselves, of course, have batteries. And the cell towers that relay your calls and other messages are often equipped with backup batteries and some have generators. Verizon says all its sites have at least eight hours of backup power.

But tower batteries run down, and refueling generators with diesel can be difficult if roads are flooded. If hurricane recovery drags on for days, cell service may go out due to a lack of "tower power." This is what took out the cellphone network in southern Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, complicating rescue and recovery efforts.

After Katrina, federal regulators wanted to mandate that all cell sites have at least eight hours of backup power. But much of the wireless industry objected to the rule, claiming it was illegally drafted and would present a huge economic and bureaucratic burden that would divert resources from the most disaster-prone areas. The requirement was tossed out.

Power loss isn't the only threat to a wireless network. Calls are carried from the towers by landlines, which are also susceptible to damage, and they connect to communications networks that also need power to function.

Wireless carriers have a menagerie of backup equipment to deploy in areas where their infrastructure has been destroyed, or where emergency responders need extra capacity. Towable cell towers are called Cells on Wheels, or COWs, while Cells on Light Trucks are called COLTs. AT&T calls generators on trailers GOATs.

Even if cellphones work, wireless networks may be overloaded by people calling to check in on each other or surfing the Web. That's why cellphone companies recommend text messaging rather than calling in any disaster, because text messages use much less network capacity. They also don't use much battery power. Using Facebook and Twitter can be tempting, but try to keep usage brief and use the phone's apps rather than web browsers if possible, to minimize network use and battery drain.

If you have a battery-powered radio, use it to get your news updates rather than taxing the wireless network and your phone battery.

Keep your phones plugged in so that they're fully charged if the power goes out. There are various products available that can recharge a cellphone from a larger rechargeable battery, AA batteries, or through a car adapter.

Corded landline phones may work even if the power goes out, because they're powered from the phone jack, which in turn is powered from the phone company's facilities. These are equipped with generators and backup batteries.

Cordless phones won't work if your home loses electric power, nor will Internet phone services like Vonage and Ooma.

Even if the phone company's facilities have backup power, the phone lines themselves are susceptible to wind and water damage.

Phones hooked up to cable or Verizon FiOS aren't powered by those lines, but the modems in the home usually have backup batteries that will last about eight hours. That means corded phones will work without your home's electric power with these services. Again, cordless phones will be useless.

Vehicle emergency systems like General Motors Co.'s OnStar rely on a wireless network (OnStar uses Verizon's), so they're susceptible to network outages, just like cellphones. However, OnStar says customers report better luck connecting with their car systems than with cellphones, probably because the car has a much larger antenna, allowing it to reach more distant towers.

For true disaster preparedness, only a satellite phone will do, but the prices are steep. Phones for the Iridium network cost more than $1,000, and the calls cost more than $1 per minute on most of the available calling plans.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Hundreds March in Seaford Demanding "Justice for Germani"

    Hundreds March in Seaford Demanding "Justice for Germani"

    Apr 24, 2018 11:09 PM2018-04-25 03:09:00 GMT
    Tuesday, April 24 2018 11:20 PM EDT2018-04-25 03:20:40 GMT
    SEAFORD, Del.- Just weeks after nine-year-old Germani Truitt-Handy was killed during a hit and run accident, her family and friends marched the streets of Seaford demanding justice. Delaware State Police say 21 year old Dwyane McConnell of Seaford was theMore
    SEAFORD, Del.- Just weeks after nine-year-old Germani Truitt-Handy was killed during a hit and run accident, her family and friends marched the streets of Seaford demanding justice. Delaware State Police say 21 year old Dwyane McConnell of Seaford was theMore
  • Laurel Pastor Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

    Laurel Pastor Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

    Apr 25, 2018 4:17 PM2018-04-25 20:17:00 GMT
    Wednesday, April 25 2018 4:35 PM EDT2018-04-25 20:35:06 GMT
    Pastor Cesar M. Rios Martinez of Iglesia El Espiritu Santo in Salisbury arrested on child porn charges; Photo Credit: Delaware DOJPastor Cesar M. Rios Martinez of Iglesia El Espiritu Santo in Salisbury arrested on child porn charges; Photo Credit: Delaware DOJ
    Pastor Cesar M. Rios Martinez of Iglesia El Espiritu Santo in Salisbury arrested on child porn charges; Photo Credit: Delaware DOJPastor Cesar M. Rios Martinez of Iglesia El Espiritu Santo in Salisbury arrested on child porn charges; Photo Credit: Delaware DOJ
    LAUREL, Del. (WBOC/AP) - Authorities say a pastor at a church in Maryland has been arrested on child pornography charges.More
    LAUREL, Del. (WBOC/AP) - Authorities say a pastor at a church in Maryland has been arrested on child pornography charges.More
  • Two Arrested For Copper Wire Thefts in Delaware

    Two Arrested For Copper Wire Thefts in Delaware

    Apr 24, 2018 7:19 PM2018-04-24 23:19:00 GMT
    Tuesday, April 24 2018 7:24 PM EDT2018-04-24 23:24:44 GMT
    Taylor Provanchie (left) and Thomas Bradley, both of Harrington. Taylor Provanchie (left) and Thomas Bradley, both of Harrington.
    Taylor Provanchie (left) and Thomas Bradley, both of Harrington.Taylor Provanchie (left) and Thomas Bradley, both of Harrington.
    Delaware State Police have arrested two people in connection with multiple thefts of copper wire from commercial irrigation systems.More
    Delaware State Police have arrested two people in connection with multiple thefts of copper wire from commercial irrigation systems. More
  • Most Popular VideosMost Popular VideosMore>>

  • People March to Remember 9-Year-Old Germani Truitt and to Demand Justice

    People March to Remember 9-Year-Old Germani Truitt and to Demand Justice

    A family in Seaford is demanding justice after a nine-year-old was killed in a hit-and-run crash. Hundreds attended a march for Germani Truitt to remember her and to protest the fact that the driver who hit her is free on $6000 bond.

    More

    A family in Seaford is demanding justice after a nine-year-old was killed in a hit-and-run crash. Hundreds attended a march for Germani Truitt to remember her and to protest the fact that the driver who hit her is free on $6000 bond.

    More
  • Eleven Arrested in Georgetown Drug Bust

    Eleven Arrested in Georgetown Drug Bust

    Dover Police and Georgetown Police cooperated in a drug investigation that finished with the arrest of 11 people. Police say the bust started with the search of a building at the Dunbarton apartments in Georgetown on January 31. 

    More

    Dover Police and Georgetown Police cooperated in a drug investigation that finished with the arrest of 11 people. Police say the bust started with the search of a building at the Dunbarton apartments in Georgetown on January 31. 

    More
  • Bennett High School Students Transform Garbage into Garments

    Bennett High School Students Transform Garbage into Garments

    Students in James Bennett High School are turning trash into fashion.

    Art teacher Erin Davis led her Art 3 and 4 students in the third edition of “Project Runway Trashion Show” a STEM lesson where students create outfits and sculptures using trash and recyclable materials.

    More

    Students in James Bennett High School are turning trash into fashion.

    Art teacher Erin Davis led her Art 3 and 4 students in the third edition of “Project Runway Trashion Show” a STEM lesson where students create outfits and sculptures using trash and recyclable materials.

    More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices