Nightly News | August 26, 2011
>>> and one of the many worries when a storm like this hits is getting in touch and then staying in touch with loved ones . every time we have had anything approaching a national or regional disaster, it becomes issue number one. if you are relying on your cell phone and just your cell phone , you are probably going to have problems in the storm zone. our report tonight from nbc's kevin tibbles.
>> reporter: we are a cell phone nation. but when natural disaster threaten, can we rely on them to help keep us in touch?
>> the phone call is not going to do.
>> reporter: in north carolina , ch chanese worries about her mom. there are almost as many cell phones as there are people, 303 million, 8 million in new york city alone. and today 27% of households only use cell phones . but when dangerous weather hits, cell phone towers can topple.
>> cell phone towers are structured, they're held on to buildings, they're on poles high in the air, they're everywhere. they can get knocked off.
>> reporter: in katrina, 1,000 transmitters were damaged. just this week when an earthquake hit the east coast , millions lost service even affecting emergency response teams .
>> millions of calls all at the same time, the tower simply can't handle it all at once. they get crushed, they get jammed up and they stop taking calls.
>> so have a backup communication plan, keep your cell phone dry in a plastic bag and have an alternate way to recharge the battery, like a car charger .
>> in an emergency, is there a smarter way to use your smart phone ?
>> one smart way to use it outside of the normal calling is text messaging, it uses less capacity on the network. it extends the resources for local police and fire.
>> just to let someone know that i'm okay.
>> reporter: and with phones down, the internet could still be working so send an e-mail to tell loved ones you're okay. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago.