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October 29, 2012

How to stay connected during Hurricane Sandy

(Continued)

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.


 



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