Communications Preparedness Tips

WITH the 2007 hurricane season less than a month away, AT&T is offering important communications preparedness tips for consumers and small business owners alike.

"Because of its historic presence in the Southeast, AT&T has probably dealt with more hurricanes than any other communications company in North America," said David Scobey, president of AT&T Southeast. "While no one can predict the impact of Mother Nature, we can all take precautions and have a plan and functioning communications equipment in place when hurricanes or any other types of disasters strike."

Consumer Tips

  • Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact and make certain all family members know who to contact if they become separated.
  • Prepare for the worst-case scenario. During natural disasters, such as hurricanes or flooding, wireline services can be interrupted for extended periods of time because of damage caused by high winds or flooding. Wireless phones may serve as alternative means of communication.
  • Be sure you have a "Hurricane Phone." Be sure that you have at least one corded telephone that is not dependent on electricity in case of an electrical power outage. Cordless telephones usually have receivers that are electrically charged, and, thus, will not work if there is a power outage. Consider keeping a basic hard-wired phone and a wireless phone on hand for emergencies to enable communication with safety officials and loved ones, even when the power is out.
  • Be radio-ready. Make sure that you have a working, battery-operated radio. The radio can keep you up to date on the latest weather reports, public safety issues and evacuation notices.
  • Program all of your emergency contact numbers into your cell phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
  • Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternate plan to recharge your battery in case of power outages (i.e. charging via your car charger, extra cell phone batteries, use of a disposable cell phone battery).
  • Keep your wireless phone dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements.
  • Forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. Since call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get incoming calls from your landline phone, even if your local telephone service is disrupted at your home. In the unlikely event that the central office is not operational, services such as voice mail, call forwarding, remote access call forwarding, and call forwarding- busy line/don't answer may be useful.
  • Use your wireless phone to access weather information. Many homes lose power during severe weather.
  • If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos of damaged property to your insurance company from your device.

Small Business Tips

  • Set up a call forwarding service to a predetermined backup location. Set up a single or multiple hotline number(s) for employees, employee families, customers and partners, as appropriate, to call so all parties know about the business situation and emergency plan. For this to be most effective, maintain an updated contact list, including cell phones and home phone and e-mail addresses, for all employees.
  • Protect hardware/software/data records/employee records, etc. Routinely back up these files to an off-site location. Use a generator for supplying backup power to vital computer hardware and other mission-critical equipment. Pre-arrange replacement of damaged hardware with vendors to ensure quick business recovery.
  • Outline and practice detailed plans for evacuation and shelter-in-place plans. Establish a backup location for your business and meeting place for all employees.
  • Assemble a crisis-management team and coordinate efforts with neighboring businesses and building management. Be aware that disasters impacting your suppliers also impact your business. Outline a plan for supply chain continuity for business essentials.

Maximizing Service During a Hurricane

  • Keep in mind that, during an emergency, many more people are trying to use their cell phones at the same time compared to normal calling activity. When more people try to call at the same time, the increased calling volume may create network congestion leading to "fast busy" signals from wireless phones. Customers may even receive a message that says, "Your call cannot be completed at this time." If you hear this message, simply hang up, wait a few seconds and try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.
  • During periods of extremely high calling volume, you also may experience a slow dial tone on your wireline phone. If you don't hear a dial tone immediately, wait a few seconds or hang up and try your call again later.
  • Try wireless short/text messaging service (SMS). During an emergency situation, text messages will often go through quicker than voice calls. More than 95 percent of AT&T phones are SMS-capable. Also, if you have a wireless data device such as a BlackBerry, you can use its messaging capabilities to communicate. Depending on the call plan, additional charges may apply.
  • Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum and limit your calls to the most important ones. Chances are that if there is severe weather, many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.

Additional information and tips for disaster preparedness are available at

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