When you can't phone home: what to do when phones are down

*This blog was updated July 2022

Many of us consider our phones our connection to the rest of the world and with phones featuring smart functions and apps, they often feel like our lives are contained in this device. But what do you do if phone lines go down?

Be prepared for emergencies, including when phones are down

Someone holding a phone
While most of us are more and more glued to our phones and dependant on them in our daily life, not as many of us can say we are prepared in the case they are down. Whether it’s because of a power outage, a system failure or any other emergency, it’s important to have a plan in the event of our smart devices not working properly.


With any emergency, it’s important to be prepared by following these three steps:
  1. Know your risks: Find out what types of disasters are more likely to happen in your community.
  2. Make a plan: Work with your family to make a plan in the event of a disaster or emergency.
  3. Get a kit: You can buy a preparedness kit from the Red Cross, or make your own.
Now that you are prepared for emergencies, here are some tips on what to do should you find yourself “out of touch”:
  • Have alternate sources of information, rather than relying on your phone and emails, can be useful. Consider keeping a hard copy of your important documents (driver’s licence, health cards, insurance, etc.) on hand, as well as a map in your car.
  • Make a plan with your loved ones. Discuss the possibility of phones being down with the people you live with and decide on a meeting point.
  • Stay connected as much as you can: listen to the radio for information on the emergency and advice from authorities. Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, uses FM frequencies to communicate with other devices without the use of landline, cell or internet services, and can be used as a back-up.
  • Check on at-risk family members, friends and neighbours (the elderly, ill, disabled) who may require special assistance.
  • Keep cash on hand.
  • Know where nearest hospital/fire stations are in case you can't reach 9-1-1 but are having an emergency.
  • "Emergency call" function on cells could work for some people as it could ping nearest available tower on a network that wasn't down.
  • Most importantly, don’t panic. If you don't need emergency services, don't contact them just to check if it works.
With or without internet connection, the Red Cross First Aid App is available for more resources at your fingertips in times of emergency.

Related stories:
How to prepare for and cope with flooding and extreme weather
Mental health matters: How to emotionally prepare yourself for an emergency or disaster
Disaster prep on a budget

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