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Telecommunications 101 – How to Stay Connected When Power Is Out

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath (Photo credit: RobertFrancis)

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath (Photo credit: RobertFrancis)

Tips and Resources for Home and Business

Call it a hurricane. Call it a superstorm. Whatever you name it, the images from Sandy 2012 are riveting. Horrifying. Shocking. Sad. They make you want to cry for all the people who lost so much. And then they make you want to stop and do something to help.

I’m not going to write about the dozens of ways you can help a friend, a neighbor or complete stranger. You probably know the ways and have already reached out.

Instead, I am going to share lessons learned – telecommunications tips and resources for business and home; things you can do and info good to know before the next catastrosphe strikes. From tech gadgets and cloud technology to Facebook, texting, and the cell phone vs. land line debate.

Tech Gadgets, Cloud Technology and More

First up –  a must read, tech-savvy article titled “How I Ran My Business from a Hurricane Shelter”. It details how one local businessman worked through the crisis by using a variety of electronic gadgets, cloud-based technology, phone service re-routing and good old fashioned common sense.

The article, by Mike Michalowicz, comes from another great resource I’ve written about before – American Express Open Forum. I can’t vouch for any of the services Mike used, but I bet you will learn something useful. Do yourself a favor, whether you run a small business or just a computer (and who doesn’t work on a computer today?)… stop and read the article, now.

What I Learned about Facebook, Texting and More

And, for my less tech-savvy commentary on telecommunications, covering a few of the lessons I learned, first hand, about social media, phones and texting, read on.

Facebook

Frankly, until Hurricane Sandy, I had no time or personal use for Facebook. I still don’t understand why people spend endless hours posting and reading the mundane minutia. (Unless you’re completely housebound, most people surely can, and should, find a better use for their days.) While I do understand the importance of Facebook for business: as a market research listening post, a way of interacting with prospects and fans, and tool to build mail lists, post jobs, and more, I FINALLY now “get it” as a personal communications tool.

The hurricane made me appreciate that, pretty much with one fell swoop, I could find dozens of friends and colleagues, let them know that I was okay, and quickly learn if they were too. (I didn’t mention family, as no one in my family actually uses Facebook – but I am sure we’re in the minority on this one.)

Texting

Obviously, since I don’t use Facebook, I don’t have kids. Otherwise, I’d also have known all about the advantages of texting too.

It took Hurricane  Sandy to made me appreciate the value of texting – because, with my cell tower down, though I couldn’t send or receive email, texting was a viable alternative. And, the person I was texting didn’t need to be at home, have electricity or even Facebook access to receive it.

A side story, and caveat that most of you surely know… Years ago, with my very first cell phone in my hot little hands, I sent a quick text to my husband saying, “I figured out how to send a text. Don’t you have a clever wife?” That pithy message and his response later appeared as a $5 charge on our next billing statement, since this not-so-brilliant wife didn’t realize that texting wasn’t part of our plan. I’ve now got unlimited texting, and in an emergency, like Sandy, it doesn’t matter… but just be aware…

The “Land Line” vs. “Cell Phone Only” Debate

Having gotten very comfortable using and relying on our smartphones, my husband and I have been debating whether to keep our home land line or let it go. Thank goodness we sprang the few dollars a month to keep this service intact. Because when my cell phone charger “picked” an inopportune time to develop a crack in the wire (the very next day after the hurricane) – rendering the charger useless – I still had the land line phone to make and receive calls. No charging needed.

Incidentally – my other savior was a car charger for my mobile phone. Lesson learned – even if you dismiss my advice about a land line, EVERYONE should have both a home and car charger for their smartphone, and maybe even a spare, as store supplies of phone chargers were as scarce as flashlight batteries, which is to say, there were none to be had. Alternatively, there are also a wide variety of wireless charger options now available for smartphones, as well.

Cell Phones

I needn’t tell you the value of a mobile phone. But, just in case you missed my other article titled, “Helpful Resources for Those Affected by Hurricane Sandy“, there are two great services you might want to know about – the Hurricane App from The American Red Cross, and assistance of all sorts in NJ through an automated 211 phone service. (211 will also work from a land line.) Read more here.

Lessons Learned

It’s incredible how heavily we’ve come to depend on electricity for not just lights, heat and power, but phones and internet; and even more incredible how quickly they can be ripped away by Mother Nature, or perhaps some other circumstance I choose not to contemplate.

Hopefully, some of the resources in this article may help you get through the next telecommunications crisis, should the unthinkable happen again. As always, I will point out that I am not affiliated with nor receive  compensation from any of the people or companies mentioned here.

Comments Requested

So, let me know your thoughts – are you an ocassional user or a fanatical Facebook fan? Did you know about Grasshopper before reading Mike’s article? Where do you stand on the “cell phone only” vs. “let’s keep our land line too” debate? Was this article enlightening? And, might you have any tips of your own to contribute?

One comment on “Telecommunications 101 – How to Stay Connected When Power Is Out

  1. John Buie
    December 8, 2012

    I take a hybrid approach to my inbound phone traffic that has worked very well for the past four years. Using any online ph# service such as the paid version if Skype, Google Voice and many others I have given all my business and personal contacts the web # which they can dial from any phone and is indistinguishable to them from a normal landline. Once the power goes out, as long as you have internet or mobile data access for a few minutes you can forward that ph# to whatever line you have that does work, either cell, landline, skype or the hotel room ph.

    The other major benefit of this is reducing roaming charges when you are travelling. Simply buy a local pre-paid (pay as you go) SIM card for your cell phone at the airport upon arrival in a new country and then login to Skype or whatever service you are using and forward the # to your new local cell #. I do this all the time with Vodaphone and T-Mobile when in Europe and clients/friends never know where I am…….although sometimes I am embarrassed when they call at 11am EST and they hear the loud background noise of a pub due to the time difference.

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