It’s pretty much the same drill during weather or other emergencies: The cell phones are going to be overloaded with everyone trying to use them at once to communicate and get emergency information. Without an FM chip in these phones, they make good paperweights. Nonetheless, here are some great tips to maximize the cellular networks’ functionality during Sandy:
Limit non-emergency phone calls. This will minimize network congestion, free up “space” on the network for emergency communications and conserve battery power if you are using a wireless phone;
Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to use it only to convey vital information to emergency personnel and/or family;
For non-emergency calls, try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more “space” for emergency communications on the telephone network;
If possible, try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if you are unsuccessful in getting through on your wireless phone, try a messaging capability like text messaging or email. Alternatively, try a landline phone if one is available. This will help spread the communications demand over multiple networks and should reduce overall congestion;
Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push “send” after you’ve ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before you’ve resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network;
If in your vehicle, try to place calls while your vehicle is stationary;
If you have Call Forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number, particularly in the event of an evacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone;
If you do not have electric power in your home, consider using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio. But be careful – don’t try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage;
Tune-in to broadcast and radio news for important news alerts.
Find more information at www.ready.gov, http://www.redcross.org, or www.fema.gov.