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Your Phone During a Power Outage

StormWhat happens to your phone when the power goes out?

The answer will depend on what type of phone and/or phone service you have. Listed below are several types of phones with answers to this important question.

If you have landline phone service from your local phone company (AT&T or Verizon), with a phone plugged directly into the phone jack in the wall:

Your phone will work even when your electricity is turned off or a blackout occurs. It is possible, however, that in the event of a major earthquake or tsunami, a car hitting a telephone pole, or a break in a cable in your area, the landline network could be damaged and will not function.

If you have landline phone service from your local phone company with cordless phone(s):

Your cordless phone(s) will not work when the power is off.

If you have a Cell phone:

As long as the phone battery remains charged, and if your cell service provider’s network is not damaged or overloaded your phone will work.

If you have Voice over IP (VoIP):

It depends on the status of your VoIP service provider. For example:

If you have VoIP phone service through Comcast cable - and if the cable working - your phone should work. Anytime the cable is “out” and you have no TV, your phone will not work.

If you have VoIP service through your computer via a provider such as Vonage or Skype, your phone will probably not work. Power is required for the computer, and both your computer and your connection to the internet must be operational for your VoIP phone to work.

If your computer has a UPS/battery back up, and your internet connection is wireless - and the wireless cell service is working - your VoIP phone will work as long as the battery lasts.

What if I have an old rotary dial phone?

Plugging an old rotary/dial phone into your landline wall jack will work to make and receive most calls, however, without the digital pulse buttons (called Touchtone) you cannot generate the tones necessary to “communicate” with the Alert Monterey County system. When the system asks you to “press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish”, your rotary phone cannot respond. The system will give you extra time, and several chances to make a selection, but when it receives no tone, it will eventually disconnect the call.

Please note that you will also need a Touchtone capable phone to call PG&E to report trouble or access outage status information, and many businesses and government agencies have the type of phone systems that require tones to reach the right office or person.

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