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Text, don't call, once Sandy hits, say wireless carriers

People using cellphones
Reuters file

Wireless carriers have made extensive preparations to deal with the impact of Hurricane Sandy, and are asking customers to do the same. Among the best things you can do to help keep your phone battery going and to ease network congestion is to limit your voice calls — keep them short — and to send text messages instead.

"Limit non-emergency calls to save battery power and free up wireless networks for emergency workers and operations and send brief text messages instead," Verizon Wireless says in a hurricane preparedness statement. "When the network gets busy, texts have a higher chance of getting through the first time and can be more efficient."

Among other tips offered by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile:

  • Keep phones and phone accessories — batteries and chargers — in sealed plastic bags to avoid water damage.
  • If you have an extra phone battery and you have power, charge that battery so it's ready.
  • Add to your phone's contact list all key emergency phone numbers and email addresses, including police, fire and rescue agencies; schools and service people.
  • If you are being evacuated, forward home or work phone calls to your wireless number.
  • Use your phone's camera to take photos or video of your property and valuables before the storm hits, so you have "before" photos if your home suffers storm damage.
  • If cell service is down in your area, but your home Wi-Fi network is working, switch to Wi-Fi on your phone.
  • Expect high-call volume, which can lead to network congestion. If that's the case, you'll hear "fast busy" signals on your wireless phone (or a slow dial tone on your landline phone). If that happens, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. That allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.

For additional tips on conserving your cellphone's battery, see NBC News' Bob Sullivan's Facebook page here. He says: 

How to conserve cell phone power during the storm: a nice set of tips. 1) Airplane mode 2) Turn off cell, wifi to gadget isn't searching for networks til you need them. Added to this, I have my auto jump-start battery in the house, which has a convenient USB port, too. Yours might at least have a cigaretter lighter 12V out ... use a car charger or converter with that. HT to @steverubel

In advance of Sandy, all carriers have been deploying portable cell sites and mobile emergency generators in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast that can replace damaged cell towers. Carriers are also coordinating their work with local and emergency agencies.

You can read more about your carrier here: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

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