Why Your Cell Phone Doesn’t Work During Disasters

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Anyone who has experienced a natural disaster will recognize that cellular service is often one of the first things to do. When disaster strikes, don't expect your iPad or mobile phone to come to your aid with all the information you need to save you. There are a few things you can do in advance in case of an emergency, but you won't be able to rely on your mobile device. Your survival plan should include your smartphone as part of it, not just as a backup device. 
    
Even if you still have a landline at home or office, this will not work, and even if you do, you may find that your emergency use pre-empts this use. Even when the mobile is off, landlines still work well, so consider picking up one extra phone to complement an emergency kit. Fixed-line service is not always available, especially after a hurricane, but even without a fixed-line, it may be necessary to prevent emergency calls before using it. 
    
The problem is many people try to use their phones at the same time in an emergency, but the increased volume of calls can lead to network congestion, causing delays of up to an hour and a half or more between calls and in some cases even longer.  Cell phone towers can also be knocked out during storms as well and there are lots of reasons for this happening. 
    
If you cannot make a call with your phone, you may have to wait a few minutes before re-selecting the option to reduce network congestion. If you are unsuccessful after making a call with a mobile phone, you can wait until you have been reconnected, which helps reduce network traffic jams and delays between calls and other calls. Or if you were unable to end your call after using your mobile phone, just wait a few minutes and then choose the dials to ease the congestion or wait until the next call. 
    
If you have a landline, you may need to have call forwarding on your home phone when you are evacuated. If not, you will have no home in an emergency - landline. 
    
If you don't have a mobile phone, keep a prepaid calling card that you can use if you need it in the event of a disaster. If you do not have an active cell plan, you can reach 911 via your smartphone, even if it is not covered in the area where you are in an emergency or if the smartphone does not have a smartphone with you in an area where you are not in an emergency. And if you have lost your mobile phone, it can help that your family, friends, colleagues, family members, and even neighbors can still get in touch. Those of you who donate a mobile phone should keep your prepaid card, which you use for emergencies, and keep it for emergencies.

This also applies if the power is restored or if you have been evacuated to a place that has electricity but has no electricity. Have a plan to recharge your batteries by charging your wireless devices with a car charger or with everything you have at hand. Keep your battery in a safe place, such as at home or in the boot of your car or on a portable charger. 
       
It is important that the mobile phone is charged during a disaster and protected from the elements. They now know that mobile phones can be used in an emergency, as first responders use all available resources. To prepare your mobile device for emergencies like a smartphone, you should have a battery, charger, and a safe place to do so in your home or car.

Sometimes good mobile service is difficult enough so you might just try texting and not making a phone call.  Try not to send photos and video because this can clog the mobile networks.  
    
If you lose power during a storm at home, you can access local weather reports on your mobile device, and if a natural disaster strikes near you, stay indoors and listen to emergency broadcasts and radio stations. If you live in a rural area with limited access to cellphones, reliable radio and NOAA warning systems are incredibly valuable devices. Whether it is a man-made disaster or a man-made disaster, your family must be prepared for the worst so that you and they can act quickly and decisively. 

One handy mobile web application we have created is Disaster Relief Maps to help people see mobile-friendly emergency maps on their phones.  Most emergency management Government web sites are publishing information for desktops and are not user friendly on the phone.  

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