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Landlines: The ‘Dinosaur Phone Technology’ That Could Save You In A Crisis

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As cell phone service has grown reliable and more widely available, many households have given up their landline telephones.

Today, about two-thirds of younger Americans use cell phones only, and about 40 percent of households overall have given up landlines.

This, though, can be a problem during an emergency.

Some, but not all, cell towers have backup generators, but during Hurricane Sandy they provided only an additional four to six hours of power. In Long Island, N.Y., every single cell phone tower eventually failed, leaving an entire community holding worthless cells phones.

“There was one woman in particular who passed away, of natural causes, an elderly woman,” city manager Jack Schnirman told NPR. “And her daughter had to walk literally a mile and a half from her home to police headquarters just to say, ‘Listen, my mom has passed, and I thought I should tell somebody.”

Said college student Colleen Marron, “It was scary because you don’t know what is going on. You feel helpless.”

Additionally, cell towers are not designed to handle a mass of people calling all at once.

Landline phones, assuming they are not wireless, generally work during a power outage. This is because power is sent to the phones through the phone line from the power companies. The power companies have battery backup and backup generators so that their operations can continue for well over a week during a power outage.

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The lines often are underground, preventing them from being damaged during a storm. That’s a selling point for landline companies who are trying to maintain customers.

“When the power’s out, a landline phone connection will work more than 99.9 percent of the time,” says a TDS Telecom website. “It’s required by the FCC. This means you can still reach 911 and friends and family; they can all reach you, too. Even if a major storm (tornado or hurricane) comes through the area. It might take out the cell tower, but it can’t take out the underground phone lines.”

In other words, during a power outage, cell phone towers will exhaust their battery power within a matter of hours, while landlines will work for well over a week, maybe more (depending on the ability of the phone company to keep its generators running).

But if disaster strikes and the grid goes down long-term, both cell phones and landlines eventually won’t work. Therefore, consider some other communication options.

Citizen Band (CB) Radio

CB radios allow two-way communication and are simple to use. They are a good starter device for those interested in alternative forms of communication that don’t use a phone line, cell network or Internet.

In the past, you needed a license to use a CB radio but the FCC stopped requiring them in the 1980s.

There are a couple of drawbacks to CB radios, though. One, they have a fairly limited range (anywhere from 5 to 20 miles). Second, while there are certainly dedicated users, the number is actually quite low. So in a disaster, you may not find another CB radio operator within range (especially if you live as far as possible from major metropolitan centers).

Amateur (Ham) Radio

ham-radio-closeupHam radios allow two-way communication locally and around the world. The drawback is that training and licensure are required, as well as investment in equipment. Some people who distrust the government are reluctant to get licensed, but this is one of the few areas where the risk of sharing information with the government is outweighed by the benefits.

There are over 600,000 ham radio operators in the U.S. and millions worldwide. Moreover, the radios use little power, so there are many ways to power them when the grid is down. Choices include battery backup, solar power backup and manual power sources. (Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth report on ham radios.)

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Satellite Phones

The benefit of satellite phones over cell phones or landlines is that they use satellites to transmit communications. Why is this an advantage? Because unlike cell phone towers or phone companies, satellites are designed to operate without any input, ever, from our electrical grid. They provide their own sustainable power by capturing solar power, thereby making them independent of any power supply issues on earth.

Additionally, you can get satellite phones with batteries that can be charged with solar power. The end result is a rechargeable phone battery that uses satellites with their own independent power sources.

Nevertheless, satellite phones have some disadvantages. First, they are expensive and the monthly access fees also can be very costly, depending on where you live. Second, you have to be outside so that the satellite phone antenna can receive a signal.

Modern society has become increasingly dependent on cell phones for communication. However, these phones are the first to fail when the grid goes down. Landline phones fare better and should operate for several days or weeks before failure.

Alternatives with longer term potential in a serious grid-down situation include CB radios, ham radios and satellite phones. All of these alternatives have advantages and disadvantages, so the best bet is to keep your landline and have at least two alternate communication devices with battery backup and solar recharging capabilities.

What do you believe is the best form of backup communication? Share your advice in the section below:

Be Prepared When There’s A Blackout. Read More Here.

© Copyright Off The Grid News


  1. Thank you for this article. I am currently in my 3rd year of preparations to build an off-grid property and home. Without reading this, I would have been left with no forms of alternative, off-grid communication.

  2. Regular new phones will not work when the electricity is out. I have an old dial phone that belonged to my grandmother and it will ring and work when electricity is out.

    • Any ANALOG telephone will work when the power is down with the power from the telephone company batteries. I have a vintage Mickey Mouse phone that is touch tone but as long as it is an analog telephone it will work with the power from the telephone company. Anything that is “digital” technology will not work – such as cordless phones. Used to work BellSouth in the central office and their battery banks are massive.

      • caution on the analog phone. AT&T Uverse does not transmit HOLD UP power over ADSL connections. I’m sad to say that the FCC was asleep at the switch when they granted exception for digital telecom. Once again revenue trumps public safety and preparedness. Subscribers must provide their own local power to feed the Uverse gateway which is the terminal that serves internet and telephone over Uverse. Get youself a better UPS unit than the wimpy little 4-hour UPS supplied by the TELCO.

    • How do you get an actual landline? You cannot because there aren’t any TELEPHONE companies that hook-up to the telephone poles. Cable companies do not do it. If there is one in michigan please let me know, for I like the old technology. Call me old fashion but I believe in the long run it is safer.I do not care for cell phones, and we live in america and we should have the option to choose what types of service we want since we are paying for it. Thank you for reading my take on it. Seriously please advise if there is a company that offers a true landline.

      • Dear Linda,

        I couldn’t have said it better myself. Yes, I, too, am old fashioned and would like to go back to having a landline phone. With my cell phone calls keep getting dropped, I must rely on the strength of the signal (no signal = no call coming in or going out), I have to put up with lousy reception (where the voice of the person I’m speaking to cuts in and out). And I don’t think it’s healthy (either physically or psychologically) to use cell phones as much as people do nowadays, which is almost all day, every day. Cell phones definitely have their place (having a cell phone can save one’s life), but I lament the fact that these are the only phones and this is the only technology available nowadays. I’m looking for a company in Chicago that could provide an analogue landline phone service.

  3. I almost made the most biggest mistake of my life by getting a phone tied into my internet. I had been swayed by the price and then Hurricane Ike hit before my cable could be installed. I had phone service while those who had phones with their cable provider did not. That was all it took for me to call the cable company and CANCEL the phone part of their service!
    I have had a land line all of my life and cannot imagine not having one. I have had people laugh at me because i have this ‘dinosaur’, but I will keep one as long as I live and they are available. As you noted, they do not go out when the power goes out.
    I have chosen to not have a cell phone. My husband has one for work, which is necessary for his line of work, but why would I need one? I do not want to be found 24/7 and have people expect me to answer night and day. I do not need one when I am out and about. It is highly annoying to be on the freeway and get behind someone going 20 mph below the speed limit because they are on their phone! Or be in the grocery store and have to listen to someone gossip on their phone as they shop. I do not care about what your friend did to you, and neither does anyone else! Some of these people talk so loud that you can hear them the next aisle over!
    I also do not want the radiation caused by cell phones (up next to my head), and I certainly do not want the extra cost! I find them ridiculously expensive, both the cost of the phones themselves and the cost to operate one every month.
    Yes, a cell phone can be convenient, and I have used my husband’s when we are out and about, but overall, I can live without them.
    Sometimes ‘dinosaurs” (low-technology) are a better investment and a safer one!

    • My wife and I are on the same page with land lines. We don’t have any type of cell phone. I’m retired now but when working-an engineer, I was required to have one. I [we] do not miss them. The land- line works all the time even when the power locally is down. Cheers…

  4. We hope had cell phones for years but maintain a landline for our internet service. We also have had winters when we’ve been without power for as much as 12-14 days. We’ve always kept an analog phone specifically to have comms when power went out. Having a working phone when every other thing is down is a real Godsend.

  5. I kept a landline which used a copper pair of wires for over forty years…..until the day arrived when the power went out and so did my phone. That told me that there wasn’t going to be the dependably that I had in 2004 during the 3 hurricanes that came through my area. Batteries kept things going and a generator for charge. The crowning blow was a few years later when my landline went down and they told me it would be 2 weeks to repair it. And sure enough it was 2 weeks. So if I am not going to have the dependability of copper, there is no reason to keep paying that bill. So a cell phone was the obvious choice. I am using the same copper pair to get uverse internet and can add phone, but at this point I am not convinced that that will continue working. Probably not.

  6. My “land line” is from the cable co. and is actually an internet line. I think the old hard wired phones stayed up during a power failure so the next time I will check. They could possibly have a backup source on their wires. I also have a ham radio and license but have not been active. Have to fix that.

  7. I have been told that a rotary phone is the only “dino” phone that will work — meaning not the touch tone “dino”. Is that correct??
    I found a rotary phone at a garage sale and got it. Now I’m hearing that it has to be a rotary phone to use whe power is out!! Which is it?? Or is it both??? Thanks for any info anyone can give me.

    • When Hurricane Ike came through we lost power for an entire week (some people longer), and we have a push button phone that plugs into the landline. It worked all week, so no, you do not have to have a rotary phone.

    • I have and old cradle style touch tone phone that the phone company man gave me a couple yrs back to use in case the power goes out since wireless phones need a powered base to operate…just last week the power went out and I needed to call my daughter, I went and found the old touch tone desk phone the telephone man had given me and plugged it in…it worked fine…so it does not need to be rotary dial to operate when the power goes out.

  8. Oops! meant to say—- I’m hearing it has to be a digital phone to use when power is out

  9. What good is any phone, unless any one you need to call is currently on the same thought process? My children and practically everyone else I know do not have land parents do but are on cordless (possibly having and old rotary jammed in the attic some where).I think it’s rather pointless to go back to two bills.seems more practical to buy your loved ones cb radio s for xmas, even if the collect dust until an emergency.

  10. GoTenna is a great alternative, too. It allows you to text message and send gps coordinates through cell phones using radio waves. I just ordered mine. Can’t wait to try them out!!!

    Just be sure you have a way to keep your phone charged.

    • Great solar chargers are available from Solutions from Science, Goal Zero, Solar Monkey, Nature Power, etc.

      I’m pleased with the Pocket Portable Charger from Solutions from Science and they even have a solar panel for it w/case….also they have a window solar charger that sticks to a car window, house window, etc. that will charge a cell phone….

      Personally I would recommend the Pocket Power Plus w/solar panel…it has enough current to charge a laptop….the stick on charger will charge smaller USB devices like MP3 players and lower power demanding cell phones…I don’t think it will charge a iPhone though as it does not have the current capability of the Pocket Power Plus….

      As for Goal Zero the small Sherpa chargers are great too…..get the Sherpa 100 for more charging capability and they have fold up solar panels to charge up these units….

      The Yeti series is great if you need more power and the units can be daisy chained…..2 Yeti 1250’s with a large enough solar array from Goal Zero will power a cabin or be very valuable to keep a fridge running in a power down situation…

      Solar Monkey products are geared to just the outdoors-man/camper/adventurer and will charge phones, GPS units, cameras and the like just like the smaller Sherpa units from Goal Zero…

      There are lots of solar charging options available so learn all you can before purchasing….

      I have a LED lighting setup from Goal Zero that will run 4 250 lumen LED Light A Life lights indefinitely as long as I manage my power in/power out correctly….

      I also have a PowerHub Plus that will run my full size fridge/freezer indefitely if I manage the power correctly…..the new fridges run only about 15 minutes every hour and they will keep food at a safe temp for 8 hours as long as the doors aren’t opened… I put my fridge/freezer on a timer to turn off at 11 PM and back on at 7 AM…and also during the day run it for 2 hours and off for 2 hours…..this way if I have a long power down condition I can run my fridge/freezer pretty much continually with my PowerHub Plus from Solutions from Science….

      I’m just a solar power nutt and have around 6 solar generators from small to large and all different types of solar panels from fold up to large arrays from Solutions from Science and Goal Zero….

  11. I use a landline only! I do own a cell in case I get stuck on the road late night or other like emergency. The wireless industry has funded the safety studies that claim these technologies are safe. They are not safe! The World Health Organization has declared RF radiation [what these phones and wifi put out] as a class 2b cacniogen. Same as asbestos. If people bring them into my house or if I am around them my speech can start to jumble and I get dizzy.

    I have an old “Genie” phone made by General Dynamics, from the 70’s. It has the round dial with touch tone. I have another phone that has every feature [speaker, caller ID….] that is one of those cheaply made Chinese phones. If the power is out the chap Chinese phone can make and receive calls, but the other features do not work, as they require electric from the plug. The Genie also works in an outage. I find that the most pleasant phone to use, as it’s well made and I do not have to hold cheap junk in my hand.

    Also the issue of not having calls drop and if the other party is on a good landline, all sound is clear. Not so as most wireless phones sound garbled and drop calls no matter how good service is in their area and also rely on good battery charge or they do not work as well.

    A landline is a must. Sometimes the old ways are healthier and more dependable.

  12. -Land line
    -SPOT Satellite GPS/ Text Messaging Device (send pre-formatted text messages) to another SPOT or cell phone….
    -Try texting with cell phone (more of a chance it will go thru than a call)

    -Ham radio


    -Marine VHF radios (set up a community communications network)

    -Older Nextel Direct Connect Cell phones (cheap on Ebay, model number i576, set up a community communications network. I have 10 of these distributed to friends, neighbors and family in my area) Requires no service to use Direct Connect Mode…range up to 25 miles line of site but in an urban area expect between 2 to 5 miles depending on obstructions (houses, buildings, trees, etc.)

    -Last, satellite phone (due to high cost) and you’ll need 2 for assurance of connecting to one other person in your family/community group…

  13. FYI….Regular land-line phones that are corded are now sold as “Emergency Phones”…can pick one up for 5 to 10 dollars at lots of survival websites…..

  14. I am new to all of this. Would handheld walkie talkies work as well? I don’t know about the range they have, but are they a cheap alternative ?

    • Sorry but walkie talkies are kids toys and have a range of about 50-100 feet at best and then break 20 minutes later….

      If that’s the way you wanna go though get the Nextel i576 phones that are true professional grade 2 way radios…

      Lots of construction companies used them and now you can pick them up for cheap on Ebay for about 35 bucks, come with SIM and a wall charger,,,get a car charger too plus a solar charger unit like the Sherpa 50 and 20 watt Nomad panel for charging….

      The more you buy the cheaper they are….I have dealt with All4Mobiles on Ebay and every one I received were like new, new battery, SIM chip and a wall charger….plus I got some belt clips for them also….

      All4Mobile has these from onesie, twosies to a set of 10 or more……here’s the current set of 10 link…

      You can’t go wrong with these 2 way Direct Talk 2 way radios….if you want you can get a couple actually activated by Sprint and use as a cell phone too….

      Highly recommend!

    • Walkie Talkies are toys, 500 max transmission distance and break after a few hours of use… you can’t understand what the other person is saying…..

      Again, they are toys and are junk….

      Go with the Nextel/Sprint Motorola i576 for a professional, rugged communication device…

      I buy from All4Mobiles on Ebay and have great experience with this dealer…you’ll get a phone in great condition, a new battery, new SIM card and a wall charger…..

      Sometimes he has singles or multiples….right now a great deal is a lot of 10…here’s the link:

      Forget toy walkie talkies, they are junk and useless in an emergency….you may talk to someone in the same house or if your lucky someone in the backyard….but then they break in a couple of hours anyway…

      Go with the i576……you will not be disappointed….I was pleasantly surprised when I received the 10 I ordered….they looked brand new, all batteries were new, SIM cards installed and very easy to set up for Direct Talk mode (manual available on internet)….no service contract needed to use Direct Talk mode…it’s a 2 way radio mode…

      Technically it’s a FRS/GMRS radio mode and one can only use the FRS channels (7-15) without a license….you can get a license from the FCC no test required just a small fee and fill out an application form….then you can use the GMRS channels (General Mobile radio Service) which is higher power and will give you greater power and be ablr to transmit further than FRS channels…

      Get the book by David Morris “Fastest Way to Prepare” and he tells about these phones as survival communication and also he describes how to get prepared for a month (food, water, survival items, etc.) with one trip to Sam’s Club, Costco, etc. in one trip and a couple of hours….

  15. Off topic (weather interruptions, etc.) a bit but let’s delve deeper into the communications issue. I spoke with a CenturyLink technician a while back and he said that eventually the “phone companies” will no longer support copper based land line communication infrastructure.

    He said it was all going to transition over to VoIP (Voice over internet protocol)… eventually copper land lines will go the way of the dinosaur.

    And then when your internet goes down no “home phone” service at all i.e. Vonage, etc…..

    And concerning the short backup power periods for cell towers in a long power out situation this will cause the majority of people to have no communication at all…

    Or a flip of a “internet” switch and VoIP is disabled not to mention all the trunk lines now go through “primary” non phone company associated routing switches and large data capacity servers before being transmitted to the actual phone company equipment and the phone call/text is sent on to it’s intended destination….

    So all this “cool technology” is meant for control, monitoring and recording of private communications and controlling the populace in general…

    I sold one of the first “portable cell phones” back in the ’80s that were big as bricks and vehicle based phones that had transmitters that had to be installed in the trunk, under a seat, etc.

    I was an electronic technician at the time and eventually transitioned to a computer technician….

    With all the advancements I was seeing at that time in communications and network systems that was permeating all sectors of society including institutions of all types (i.e. educational institutions, etc.), government, financial, transportation, food distribution, power distribution, communications, etc. I had an epiphany…..

    “When everything becomes electronically connected via cables, networks, wireless, etc. that would signal the end as everything would be dependent on something else….so one SCADA unit goes down a cascading effect would ensue…..”

    So a glitch in a transportation SCADA system could take down everything from transportation to communications, to financial institutions, to power distribution….everything…

    So that was my epiphany even though I made my living installing, servicing and repairing these systems….

    So IMO, technological advancement will destroy the human race and the world…..

  16. There is 5 volts on a regular land line….you can build a small USB “black box” to tap that 5 volts and charge your devices when the power is out or just save some money….if you have a land line you’re paying for that 5 volts so why not use it…

    If interested I’ve uploaded the “Phone Energy” plans to my OneDrive Cloud Public Folder…here’s the public link so you can check it out if you want….!150&authkey=!dmEn!l!jDo0%24&ithint=folder%2cpdf

    • Wrong. A copper pair legacy phone line is not 5 volts, it is 48 volts spec. Although that is not the real world voltage which varies slightly. The ring voltage is around 90 volts AC at around 20 Hz.

  17. For those who insist cell is the best way.
    Next time you see a tower get up close and see the LACK of any kind of security, then find the Phone Company” Central Office in your town/city and compare.

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