I grew up with rotary phones. Who remembers those? My grandparents had a black one on a table in the spare room and a beige one hanging on the kitchen wall. If rotary phones were a part of your life, you’ll know you had to stay right by the phone while you used it because the cord only stretched so far: a few feet maybe?

I’ll never forget the day they came out with the extra long cord. We thought we were in heaven because now we could stretch it out to the other end of the kitchen and get a snack, or prepare dinner and talk at the same time, or better yet, we could now wrap it around into the living room so we could sit in one of the chairs while talking. Wow, we really thought we had it made back then. Ahhhh, rotary phones … it seems like just a few years ago.

For most of us, landlines are a thing of the past, being ditched first by cordless phones, then passed up by our personal cellphones. With the economy, most families are “cutting the cord” as it were and just sticking to their personal cellphones as their only source of communication of choice within the home.

Even though this is nothing new, it still does concern me, because cellular networks can be useless during times of emergency, and wireless phones will not work in a power failure.

Have you ever thought about how reliable your cell tower will be in an emergency? A few years ago, on two separate occasions, I lost cell service for more than a week each time. While the towers were in repair, I was cut off from the cellphone world: no calls, no texts and unable to communicate with my two kids, who were in college at the time and relied solely on their cellphones for communications. What a wake-up call.

In our house we have a cordless landline, but I also keep a good old-fashioned corded phone on standby as well. I keep it in the box it came in for events such as these, and yes, I have used it at least once every year, which makes it totally worth having purchased it. When you lose power, you can always plug in your old standby, setting aside your cordless phone and having some access to the outside world via phone.

When dealing with emergency preparedness, I had learned early on that it is never wise to get rid of your landline phone. When all else fails, your trusty landline phone will be there for you, ready to dial out and receive calls.  

Why should you keep your landline phone?

Here are the top 15 reasons to keep your landline phone:

1. Emergencies (911): You will receive a quicker response if you have to call 911. You will not only be easily located, but also more specifically located than if you called 911 from your cellphone. What if you were choking, having a stroke or heart attack and could not speak to give directions over the phone? Simply calling 911 from your landline will get you the most accurate and quickest response. Did you know that if you lived in a multi-floor apartment building such as in the bigger cities, a landline call to 911 will display the physical address and the apartment number? A cellphone call will not. So even if the call gives the general location from your cell, it will not show what floor you are on. That can be a real problem if you are in need of medical assistance ASAP.

2. Power outages: Landline phones have proven to be the most reliable in a power outage. Make sure you have an old-fashioned corded phone to plug in.  

3. During and after disasters: Landlines have also proven more reliable during and after natural disasters than mobile devices. When a natural disaster or a nationwide emergency occurs, many people use their cellphones to call and check in on loved ones, so if they are able to receive cell tower service, the service will soon be bombarded with calls and the chances of you getting through will become slimmer as the event rolls on.  

4. Security: Hackers cannot gain access to conversations on a landline.

5. Better quality: With all the advances in phone technology, the landline still has better sound quality than a cellphone. Some cellphones, like mine, have this awful delay when talking, so that by the time the person on the other line hears my voice, it sounds as if I am interrupting their conversation.

6. Alarm systems: Most security alarm systems require that you have a home phone to connect to.

7. No charging batteries: You do not have to charge any batteries with a landline phone, and if your power is out for awhile, you will not be able to charge your portable cordless phones, either.

8. No dropped calls: Have you ever been in the middle of telling a great story and your call was dropped, without you even hearing it? Now, you wonder, how much of the story did the person on the other end actually hear? More importantly, how much do you have to repeat?

9. Private conversations: Cellphone conversations are sent through waves and it is more possible for someone to hear your private conversations, as well as with a cordless phone. However, your trusty landline conversations are sent though cable, making it harder to break through a call.

10. Faxing capabilities: If you are used to faxing from your home, you must have a landline connection.

11. Baby-sitter does not have a cell phone: If your baby-sitter does not have a cellphone (yes, it is possible) or, if their cellphone battery has run down, how is she/he going to call you or 911 if there is an emergency? Better yet, how are you going to call to check in on your precious one?

12.  Collect calls can only be received to a landline phone: You may think you may never need to receive a collect call, but what if your kids call from school or adult children from out of town, or maybe a family member is traveling and has an emergency? You just never know.

13. Peace of mind: Cell service, no matter how advanced, is not as reliable as a landline.  

14. Always there when you need it: Have you ever misplaced you cellphone? In an emergency, time is of the essence. A landline phone is always in the same place.

15. Green and healthy: Landlines have no toxic batteries and are especially safe for kids and the pregnant.

How to make an emergency communications plan

The next time you are working on your emergency plan, remember to include communications as part of that plan, making sure phones are covered.

• Establish a “home base” for making emergency calls with a centrally located, easily accessible landline phone. Maybe it is your parents’ home, or maybe it is your home.

• Designate a safe location within the home during an emergency and establish a safe way out of the residence.

• Make an inventory of communications items, including all landline phones, wireless phones, batteries and charger.

• Make a list of emergency contact numbers. The more choices you have to reach 911 in an emergency, the better, and a corded landline phone should be one of those options. For the safety of you and your family, you should always plan with this in mind: “Failure is not an option.”

The more means of emergency communication you have, the better. We will never know the seriousness of the event before it happens or what will work when the time comes to call for help. For peace of mind, don’t you want to be prepared for anything? Remember, your family depends on you. Are you ready for that challenge?

Elizabeth Hall is an emergency services specialist for the Kings County Public Health Emergency Preparedness program. Read all her Preparedness Facts articles at http://bit.ly/uT4nh3.

(1) comment


Can't help but notice the similarities with the spiels from telphone companies.

If cellular towers don't function at the same time as when you're let without any network connection (for VoIP calls), chances are either there's a new interpretation for Nostradamus' predictions for that day or the Mayan's calendar is misundertsood again.

How much peace of mind do people really have knowing that telephone companies offering landline services are basically ripping them off?

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