Surviving Sandy With 'Old' Media

The past week has been a sobering lesson in what does and doesn’t work during a disaster. My personal experience has been nothing compared to those who suffered grievous losses, with some still displaced. It is heartbreaking, and we hope that conditions improve immediately. (There are many ways to volunteer and contribute; here’s one.)

We think we are connected all the time. We comfort ourselves that with all of our virtual and technological devices we can keep in touch any time, any place -- and, with the ability to access the Internet, we can get news easily and effortlessly no matter what catastrophe befalls us. 

Well, throw that idea out the window.

We lost our electricity at 8:15 on Monday night. About that time, as my AT&T iPhone was half-charged, I could call family and friends to give and receive updates. But the battery drains quickly, so I shut it off to save it for the next day. I shouldn't have. The next day I had about half a battery charge left, but there was no signal in all of lower Manhattan so there was effectively no service. Isolated on an upper floor of an apartment building as neighbors left in droves, it is remarkable that one can be in the middle of a city but suddenly realize that help was just a little too far away should we need it immediately.



I am so happy that I am married to a Luddite, someone who still has a flip phone and who listens to his transistor radio every morning. Those vital items were our only access to the outside world during the week, since all our state-of-the-art devices failed.

Our bundled Time Warner service -- including the landline we keep for emergencies -- went out with the electricity.  I guess that "landline" phone will be good for any emergency as long as we don’t lose our electricity.

My husband’s Verizon flip phone worked beautifully and held its charge through the first four days. He also started to receive text updates from Con Edison as soon as the electricity went out -- which my smartphone never did.

His trusty transistor radio kept us informed and provided a modicum of entertainment, helping us pass the time when there was not enough light to read. And, since we subscribe to print magazines, we could catch up on news that way -- and even read all the daily delivered newspapers that our absent neighbors had left behind.

Vittorio, the owner of La Lanterna, a local coffee shop on MacDougal Street, offered free phone charges from his restaurant's generator. A lifesaver! His restaurant turned into a lively beacon of community in an otherwise dark neighborhood.

The word “connection" in times of catastrophe takes on an entirely different meaning. While we worship all the sophisticated and fascinating services the newest devices provide, when the chips are down, it is the older media and forms of connection that will be there for us. In fact, this may be our only link to the world when disaster strikes.



9 comments about "Surviving Sandy With 'Old' Media".
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  1. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, November 7, 2012 at 1:20 p.m.

    Hint: Find a Luddite phone. The old Princess phone we brought from my Mother's house is the only one that works when the electricity goes out.

  2. Marcia Chocinsky from Fahlgren Advertising, November 7, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.

    Time Warner's phone service is not a landline unless, of course, they are offering something different in your area.

  3. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, November 7, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.

    Charlene, my days were spent like that of a caveman, i.e. hunting for places in the powered part of Manhattan where I could recharge my phone and laptop before heading back to blacked-out lower Manhattan for the night. At times it seemed that food was of secondary concern!

  4. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, November 7, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.

    Whoops -- skimmed right over that it was Time Warner -- but for those with landlines, it is good to have an old-model phone for emergencies.

  5. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, November 7, 2012 at 5:17 p.m.

    I need to research how to get a true landline - maybe that means de-bundling service and going with a Verizon for example? Do I need to dig out my old rotary phone from the closet or something like it?

  6. Ngoc T from Iowa, November 29, 2012 at 8:35 a.m.

    Hi Charlene! A true land line phone, aka a POTS (plain old telephone service), is one that connects to your local telephone company. You can still have the POTS phone bundled with other services; however, your phone line needs to connect directly to your local phone company's landline service center in order for it to work during electrical outages. The POTS phone itself is powered by the phone company, not your electrical company. That's how phone still work during blackouts. The AT&T and other non-POTS phones do not have power when the electricity goes out, since they are not your local phone company provided phone. For residential POTS, you can use any analog phone you find at the Big Lots or thrift store (rotary or dial), but you will still need to pay your local phone company to activate your old land line (POTS), and pay monthly whether you use it or not.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 1, 2012 at 11:55 p.m.

    It is hard to believe what I just read. VOIP is not that old to forget landlines.

  8. Marcia Chocinsky from Fahlgren Advertising, December 2, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.

    I just signed up for an unlimited local and long distance plan for $19.99 per month with Verizon. They will port my old phone number over. I bought new phones but will keep the old ones for emergencies but I got a gizmo that plugs into the landline and the electricity. It then communicates wirelessly to our new style base unit. So I think that's still a landline. The battery in the unit stays juiced for 3 days I think so you still have a phone and after that I would think you could hook up the old style phone. If anyone knows differently let me know!

  9. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, December 2, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.

    Thank you all for some great advice. First stop - buy a new (old) analog phone.

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