cellpackageI was recently in an American Red Cross Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED class, and my practice partner mentioned that he had an emergency cell phone in his glove box (he didn’t have a “normal” cell phone).  When talking to him about it, he mentioned that he’d taken an old cell phone from a family member who no longer needed it, with no plan or monthly fee, and keeps it in his glovebox for emergency use.

Thinking back to new or deactivated cell phones, when they don’t have an associated plan there’s always an option for making an “Emergency Call”.  So I thought…this would be something interesting to test.

I purchased a Verizon Samsung GUSTO 3 from Wal-Mart, for $12.88.  This is a pre-paid phone, which can be used on the Verizon network.  There were other phones available from other carriers, including AT&T.

I then called Cambria County’s Non-Emergency number, for the proper procedure for testing 911 in a non-emergency situation.  After discussing what I wanted to test, the dispatcher did confirm that 911 will always work on a cell phone, regardless of a plan.  I wanted to test anyways, and he confirmed that wouldn’t be a problem, and to just call back when I was ready.

I unpackaged the phone, which, as you would image for $12.88, was a basic, light-weight flip phone, with minimal features.  Exactly what I expected.  After installing the battery, I fired it up to an activation screen, which I simply cancelled out of.

I called the dispatcher back, and this time, spoke with a woman.  I explained the same thing to her, and that I was ready to test.  I then called 911.

She answered, in a more serious tone than prior, and I quickly let her know who it was and that I was testing.  While I didn’t want to stay on the line very long, I asked if she (911) would have the same location features as a normal cell phone.  She said to hold on just a second…and literally, that’s all it was.  I heard her then say that I was in Ebensburg Borough, and then in the vicinity of 302 Reddinger Street (our office). She nailed it.  I thanked her and hung up.

cellemergSo why would someone want an emergency cell phone?

In IT Management and Security, I’m always discussing backup and disaster recovery plans, and security with clients.  There’s a heavy focus on redundancy and testing.

When discussing backup plans, we want to ensure we have multiple solutions in place, redundant solutions, utilizing both an onsite and offsite solution, to keep our data secure and protected. And that no backup plan is complete unless it has been tested.

When discussing security, we talk about defense in depth, meaning, that we want to apply multiple layers of security to stop intruders.  Layers could include a firewall that scans for viruses, spyware and hackers, a content filter that blocks malicious sites, and anti-virus/spyware protection and security updates to your computers and servers.  The more layers of defense you have, the safer you are.

How does this relate to an emergency cell phone?

By planning for a disaster, we’re better prepared in the event one does occur.  That’s why we test our backup and disaster recovery plans on a yearly basis (or more frequently).

Think of all the times you’ve looked at your cell phone and had little to no service.  I carry two cell phones, one AT&T, one Verizon, for this purpose.  However, my requirement is to never be without data (Internet).

Think of all the times you’ve run out of battery life on your smartphone…possibly due to playing Pokémon all afternoon.

Think about that parent or grandparent, who is perfectly content with their landline.

Those are three examples that instantly come to mind for me, and I’m sure you can think of others.  Isn’t it worth $12.88 to have an emergency cell phone you can stick in a glove box or first aid kit?  With winter around the corner, would you want to be stranded and unable to call for help? And please do remember that just like our backup and disaster recovery plan, your emergency cell phone should be tested regularly.  Even when powered off, the battery can drain, especially in cold weather.  So every so often bring it in and ensure it’s fully charged.

Not only was my Red Cross class informative (I don’t know why it took me so long to take one), but I also learned about using an old or low cost cell phone in emergency situations.  In all, a very valuable day, in which I hope to never have to use anything I learned.

Brian Shrift

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