Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cell phones and SHTF

Bones said...

Cell phone hands down. Communication is the single most important thing needed to get through any emergency. No military operation goes down without a comprehensive communications plan.

It enables you to get the things you need beyond daily preparations. Your car dies, you get robbed, (yes, the BG got the better of you) public transportation is stopped, you're suddenly ill and unable to travel by yourself. The list of things you can't prepare for is very long. A simple phone call can solve many problems far better and easier than a backpack full of preps. Certainly if SHTF or TEOTWAWKI cell towers may go down, but they may not - most towers have emergency power supplies allowing calls during power outages. With data services a cell phone becomes invaluable, especially during emergencies. How lucky are we to be able to Google it anytime, anywhere?

June 2, 2010 3:25 PM

Anonymous said...

Bones, cell phones did NOT go down even after the Haiti earthquake, when 95% of Port-au-Prince was utterly demolished. Voice calls were blocked, but text messages got through, and a number of people were able to text their location in the rubble to rescue crews. Some plans don't include texting; make sure yours does, even if it means paying extra. Of course, keeping a VHF amateur transciever in your preps is also good (you need a license). If cell towers have been destroyed, like in some wildfires, or targeted by rebels, you can use the VHF to get help.

Angry Cow

Thanks, good point. Keep in mind that there may or may not be phone signal (there was in Haiti, same for Chile after the earthquake) but then again there may be internet, some wi fi signal that didn’t go down or restored specially by the rescue teams.
Then there’s other million situations where the phone is just priceless.
With the crime situation here in Argentina, its mandatory to have your phone with you at all times. Specially to avoid virtual kidnappings. (the person is not really kidnapped, just unable to communicate due to some reason the family ignores but the criminal got hold of that piece of intel) Check if everyone is ok, make a call after learning that there was a shooting/protest/revolt in some part of town where a family member is in. Check the price of the currency as it collapses and changes value within minutes. This is all real stuff that happened during 2001, and the crime situation still continues. For this and a thousand other reasons, the phone is really needed.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not much of a phone guy, never even bought a phone, usually got them handed over, inherited after my wife got a new one or a family member had one that they weren’t using.

For my trip to USA; I decided to fix this situation and learn how to use one, so I bought my first phone ever. (first one I actually got for me)
As usual, I did lots of research before buying anything. Hours spent on line, reading threads (check
To make long story short I ended up with a iphone 3GS. It’s the best overall phone in my opinion ( I know everyone have his/her favorite, this just works for me).
With the excellent user interface, maps, gps, and apps I believe it’s the best overall option.
Now this piece of gear has one weekness: Its not exactly tough.

I like my gear, tool and gadgets in general to be as tough as possible.
Out of pure luck I found the solution to my problems, the OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone .

This shell makes the iphone into a drop proof, heavy duty piece of equipment, I believe one was run over by a truck as a test, the Iphone inside wasn’t damaged. Its not waterproof though, so don’t abuse it much.
The combination of these two are the perfect solution for SHTF phone needs.



Loyalist said...

I second the iPhone 3G it! Look for Apple to announce the 4G maybe as early as this month.

Anonymous said...

After a real SHTF event Cell phone and even landlines may well be useless. I am a Ham and belong to the Navy/Marine Corps MARS radio system. In the hours immedialetly after the 9/11 event. Many cell phones, landlines and internet were giving busy signals. All lines were overloaded from everyone calling. A lot of internet did not work because much of it is still dial-up and there were no lines available. Phones, both Cell and landlines, are designed to be used with a capacity of no more than 25% of the subscribers using the system at the same time. More than that and the system has no capacity and is "Busy". You even see this on holidays when you get a recording that says to "please call later, all circuits are busy"
During 9/11, many emergency workers could not use their cells because everone was calling home or whatever. The Government found contrary to prior thinking, that cells were a poor sustitute for dedicated radios. That is why some systems are aranging dedicated emergency worker phones so that during a disaster they can lockout John-Q-Public and not overload the system. In addition, huge amounts of the landline trunking systems for New York were routed through the basements of the World trade Center. And as mentioned, the internet has the weakness of some in the system still use dial-up. You may have wi-fi or cable, but the recipient may not. If you're on dial up and can't make a phone call, you also can't use the internet. For several hours after 9/11 in Ohio, both my landline and cell were constant busy signals. The High speed Internet (Cable) was horribly slow to almost frozen.
With cells, it's not just about power backup, it's about line capacity.
Charles in Ohio

Anonymous said...

Like Charles, I don't put any faith in cell phones working in a SHTF scenario, mild or severe.

The network gets overloaded so easily.

Much better to assume you will be cut off from cellular communications and plan accordingly.

Idahoser said...

actually you don't need a license to own a transciever, only to transmit with it. And that restriction is removed in an emergency. Now, I'm not recommending you avoid the license; just that having the transceiver (such as a Kenwood TH-F6A with 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm FM transciever, and general coverage all-mode "DC to Daylight" receive) and listening is not restricted, at least in this country. Aside from being capable of receiving anything a shortwave receiver can, you have an emergency transmitter.

Anonymous said...

Some folks around here might not like it, but in many African countries pay-as-you-go cell phone credit is the de facto currency, even for people with no cell phone.

Kind of like cigarettes in prison.

Unlike cigarettes in prison, or gold for that matter, cell phone credit derives its value from the fact that it is eminently useful.

The folks in Africa have developed an elaborate Morse code-like system of one-ringers (as in: "two one-ringers in a row" means "I am running late but all is otherwise well" but three one-ringers, followed by a pause and then two more one-ringers means "I am in trouble come find me!" to avoid wasting valuable cell phone credit.

Dustin Tarditi said...

On 9/11, in NYC (and surrounding areas), the cell towers overheated - it was thermal failure, not lack of power, that prevented most people from communicating. This will not only prevent vox but sms (text) as well.

In an TEOTWAWKI situation, your cell phone will likely be a useless brick.
In a SHTF regional disaster, it may or may not be useful - that said, be prepared, so carry one anyway, but have a contingency plan.