Survival Communications–Don’t Dump Your Landline Phone Service!

The other evening I was on a conference call where one of the participants couldn’t stay for the whole call. She lives in Louisville, KY, and was without power due to a recent winter storm. She had called on her cell phone and didn’t want to use all her battery power. Fortunately for her, she had access to a generator for recharging batteries, but she was being prudent.

Since then I’ve read a blog post from someone who said people in the hardest hit areas of Kentucky are complaining their cell phones don’t work. He’s an amateur radio operator endeavoring to coax his readers to become amateur radio operators proficient in emergency communications. While I think it’s a good idea to have as many “weapons” in your communications arsenal as possible, I know there are a lot of people who simply won’t take his advice. That’s fine. They don’t have to.

I hope, however, that people don’t completely dump their landline phone service. To be honest, I don’t know if there is landline phone service in the areas hardest hit by the recent ice storm, but I suspect there may be landline service in some places where there isn’t cell phone service.

The other day I heard a news sound bite where a man who had been laid off work said he was going to dump his landline phone to save money. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. Is it more important to have the ability to call your wife from the grocery store aisle to ask what brand of chips to bring home, or to be able to call for help when there’s an emergency at home? Oh, sure, cell phones can be useful in emergencies, when they work.

As for economics, purchase the most basic plan possible for both cell and landline service. In fact, buy prepaid cell service. You’d be surprised how conscious you become of your minutes usage. If that sounds restrictive to your personal freedoms, remember we’re talking about priorities here. Once upon a time—not all that many years ago—we got along fine without cell phones altogether. One day we might not have phone service of any kind anywhere.

For now, don’t drop your landline service. Think survival.


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.

4 thoughts on “Survival Communications–Don’t Dump Your Landline Phone Service!”

  1. The landline system needs power as the service/lines are extended into rural areas. All in all, if power is down then for the most part the landlines are down too. What most people don’t know is that cell phones calls are routed over the landline system. Each cell site is serviced by a landline T-1 in order to take the cell call back to the local telephone network and then sent out to the appriproate number dialed. In some cases cell calls can be handled by the cell site if both phones are being serviced from the same cell site of if the cell sites are back hauled using mircowave. In the Kansas/Missouri ice storm of 2000, my power and line land was out for five days but my cell phones worked because the cell site which was providing a signal had power. Most cell sites have at least battery back up systems of 4 to 8 hours, have on site generators or the cell company will deliver a portable generator. If I only get to pick one then the cell phone is my choice.

  2. Good points, Joe.

    In rural areas I’m not sure if cell phone calls are uniformly as easy to track by emergency services, are they? That’s something to be aware of in any given area, too.

    I’d be glad to hear from other readers with any other comments.


  3. John,

    FCC has mandated location tracking standards for all 911 calls by cell phones. If you have purchased a cell phone within the last several years, the phone is equipped with GPS locating. If you have an older model phone with out a GPS they can still pinpoint your location within several 100 feet by use of software.

  4. Joe,

    Thanks for the update. I knew progress had been made in recent years, but wasn’t aware of how pervasive it has become.

    Each of us needs to evaluate what’s going to work best in an emergency. That may not always be the most convenient. I admit a landline isn’t as convenient as pulling a cell phone out of pocket or purse, but it may be better in some situations at home than others. I don’t want to see people cutting themselves off from any means of communication that could be useful. Ideally, have as many options available as possible.


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