Your Landline Can Be a Great Emergency Tool

In conjunction with National Preparedness Month remember to keep a tool you may already have ready for emergencies.

Most workplaces still have landlines and, depending upon your data source, an estimated 40% to 60% of homes have one, too. The issue in an emergency is that most landline phones these days use AC power; if the commercial power fails, your fancy phone won’t work.

The good news is that your phone company has emergency back-up generators in each of its Central Offices. So if the commercial power fails, you may still be able to make and receive calls if you have the right telephone handset. The better news is the right handset is probably the least expensive one you can buy, and you may have an old handset sitting around in your garage or attic that’s just the ticket.


You need a handset that:

  • Has a cord that connects the telephone to the RJ11 jack in your wall.
  • Has a cord — usually a curly cord — that connects your telephone to its receiver.
  • Does not have an AC cord that connects the handset to an AC power outlet.

In other words, you want a plain, old, telephone handset. It’s OK if it’s a TouchTone phone as long as it does not require AC power to dial out. You can often buy just such a telephone at a big box store for about $10 or $15. But check out yard sales and your mom’s basement, too.

There are some ancient phones — I’m looking at you, Princess phones and Trimline phones from the 70s — that have AC adaptors only to power the light-up dials. A phone like this is fine for your Emergency Preparedness kit as long as you can make and receive calls on it without the adaptor plugged in.

Be sure to test your telephone before you need it in an emergency.

One final note about your phone company: In an emergency their switching equipment is often inundated with calls. So each company has a plan to choke down usage to keep the switch up and running.

  • Some companies delay dial tone. If you pick up your receiver and there’s no dial tone just stay off-hook for a minute and see if the dial tone eventually comes.
  • Some companies suspend either incoming or outgoing calls. So even if you can’t call out, people may still be able to call you. Make sure your Call Tree is in place.

Don’t have a landline? Depending upon where you live and likely emergencies in your region, it may not be prudent to install one just for Emergency Preparedness. But if you or your workplace still have a landline, an inexpensive handset you can plug in during a power outage is a great addition to your Emergency Preparedness toolkit.

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