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Cellphone popularity concerns preparedness advocates

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - Jan 11th, 2011 @ 10:00pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Many people have dumped their home phones in favor of cellphones. With Verizon's iPhone announcement, more people might decide to do the same, which is a concern for those who stress emergency preparedness.

Shoppers at The Gateway Verizon store Tuesday had plenty of options. Brand new, gleaming Droids and Blackberry Storms invite customers to try their numerous features.

Cell phones are great, and they are vital tools of communications, but it probably shouldn't be your only tool.

–Joe Dougherty, Be Ready Utah

But the one phone everyone in cellphone land was talking about won't be available at Verizon until next month: the iPhone.

"They're going to get a lot of users," said Salt Lake City resident Isaac White. "I'm expecting their user base is going to jump a lot especially for the iPhone."

The game-changing phone has been out for about three years, but only on AT&T service. Next month Verizon will offer it, and many cellphone users can't wait.

"It's better hardware, a better phone, and it's better software," said Salt Lake City resident Richard Woodruff.

Currently, Verizon charges a minimum of $55 a month for 450 minutes of talk time and 150 megabytes of data. Details on what a new Verizon iPhone would cost per month have not been released yet.


Cellphone users always like to have the latest and greatest cellphone, but what about an old-fashioned corded landline phone?

In disaster situations, like an earthquake, cellphone towers could be damaged or knocked down completely. In that scenario, cellphones would be about as valuable as a paper weight.

"There's no way to make a phone call go from person to person with a cellphone if you don't have a cellphone tower that's working," said Joe Dougherty, a spokesman with Be Ready Utah, the state's emergency preparedness program. "Cellphones are great, and they are vital tools of communications, but it probably shouldn't be your only tool."

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, cellphones were useless because many towers were down.

This past summer when the Herriman wildfire started burning close to homes, cellphone towers were jammed. That made cellphones calls difficult to connect, but landline phones worked without any problems.

Many people have ditched their home phones because of price. A check online for basic home phone service found Comcast charges about $20 a month, Qwest was asking for $13 a month, and Vonage charges about $10 a month if you sign up online. Many stores still carry corded landline phones, which can still work even if the power goes out.

"Be Ready Utah would always urge Utahns to have another plan, because your first plan might not always be the plan that works," said Dougherty.


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