Phone Use Tips During a Disaster

Following a disaster, there usually is a high volume of phone calls. It is important that phone calls be limited to emergencies only. Do not call 9-1-1 or the police or fire department for general information about an earthquake or other disaster. Listen to your local radio or television stations for information.

When high call volume causes extreme congestion on the telephone network, phone companies may restrict outgoing calls. This will prevent overloading of the telephone network by diverting some calls to recordings, allowing other calls to be completed.

If you need to place an emergency call:

  • Check to make sure all extension phone receivers are on the switch hook.
  • You may not hear dial tone right away, so stay on the line. Dial tone delay could be as long as a minute or more.
  • Do not repeatedly push the switch hook down. This will further delay your call.
  • If you get a "fast busy" or "all circuits busy" recording, hang up and try your call again.
  • If there is damage to our equipment or facilities or to your wiring, it may not be possible for you to complete your call.

Ask a relative or friend who lives outside your immediate area to act as a clearinghouse for information about you and your family. It will probably be easier to place a call out of the disaster area, so all family members should know to call this contact person to report their location and condition. Once contact is made, have this person relay messages to your other friends and relatives outside the disaster area. This will help to reduce calling into and out of the affected area.

Tips provided by GTE-February 1995, CA 9503 bulletin.