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something to think about

Like many people of our generation, Better Half and I do not maintain a landline – any verbal communication we want to handle can be done by way of cell phones, and the added cost simply did not make sense to us. However, our cell phones have a habit of spending the night wherever we happened to leave them, or attached to whatever outlet we plugged them into, and that is not always in our bedroom. Should someone break into our house, our alarm system’s first response is to call our monitoring company, and the police, automatically, but in any other circumstances, it is entirely possible for us to need a connection to the outside world but be unable to get to our phones – a fire, some sort of catastrophic storm, etc.

Well, there is good news – per federal regulations, all cell phones, even ones that no longer have a service contract, must be able to dial 911, and if there is one thing people of my generation have, it is spare cell phones:

A random power outlet in a bedroom closet, a digital timer set to turn on one hour every day (to keep the phone from turning into an energy vampire – we found the mechanical ones to be too noisy at night), and an old cell phone left off but still plugged in – with just those bits and pieces, we have an emergency lifeline should we ever need it.

Hopefully you will never need to call the authorities in the middle of the night, but if you do, it is always better to have the ability to do so in a known place not far from your bed, rather than trying to figure out where you left that damned electronic leash the evening before…

11 comments to something to think about

  • ViolentIndifference

    Non-service cell phones are a good thing to give to someone as an emergency phone. You can keep one in your vehicle, too. Good if your power outlet (cig lighter) is switched on/off with ignition.

    Note that your timer device also uses “vampire” power.

    If all that you have for a phone is the car adapter, you can buy a “wall wart” that has a car power socket on it. Or if all you have is the PC data/charge cable you can get a “wall wart” that has a USB (type-A) socket on it and charge from that.

  • Andrew Sarchus

    Have you considered leaving the phone on? Mine have always taken what seems like forever (a minute or so) to boot and it would seem even longer in an emergency. And last time I pulled out an old cell phone, it would not boot up. I blame the ammo gnomes.

    And a little googling says my iphone’s charger puts out five watts. I’ll assume that it uses 10 watts to do so, which works out to 43,830 watt hours per year. I pay about six cents per KW/hr, so that means leaving my phone charger plugged in 24/7 should cost $5.25/yr or less.

    I think I’ll leave mine on.

  • Perhaps it’s because I can’t carry a firearm, but I’m fanatic about retention of my phone. If I’m awake, it’s within arms reach, usually in a belt holster or jacket pocket. If I’m asleep, it’s still within arms reach, on the nightstand being charged. And I tend to leave the thing charging on the nearest computer if the battery is not full.

    Might also be because replacement cost (out of contract) would buy me a decent firearm, too – except that I carry insurance, so that’s not it.

    Probably because I’m an information junky and go into withdrawal without an internet feed (mostly a joke – I have been known to unplug from time to time).

    Seriously, if you have a cell phone, carry it. It may not stop a perp (for that you need Starbucks), but it’s still lighter than regret when you have to call 911 for some paramedics, or your wife to tell her you’re running late.

  • @ ViolentIndifference: Sadly, for some reason, my Mustang’s cigarette outlet is not switched to the ignition – why car companies do that, I will never understand.

    And, yeah, the timer is a leech in and of itself, but probably smaller than the phone constantly trying to charge itself.

    Also, a stupidly simple way to get an amazing number of USB wallwarts – have problems with your Kindle. Every time we had to send our old one back, they told us to keep all of its hardware, and then sent the new one with all of its hardware. We are swimming in micro-USB and warts…

    @ Andrew Sarchus: Eh, on or off, the important thing is to just have a phone nearby and one that you know will get out… I would rather leave something I am not actively using off, if only to possibly extend its operable lifecycle, but an hour’s charge once a day is more than enough to keep an online cell phone charged if that is what you want to do. This one can go from dead to phone call in about 30 seconds, and while it would suck for it to die on startup (the most common period, after all), it is also something I am not going to check frequently to ensure it is still working… :).

    @ Ian Argent: I am a fanatic about carrying and checking for my cell phone when I am out of the house, but I have an annoying habit of just laying it down wherever I am in the house… Or just leaving it plugged into my computer. Giving myself a backup is always a good idea for me, but, in general, absolutely – just like a firearm, a cell phone is an infinitely lighter burden than regret.

  • I actually wish my car had an always-on power socket, to tell the truth. The wife’s car does. Or that the behavior was user-controllable, anyway.

    A couple things to think about with a backup phone – first, with LiON batteries, they have a limited number of charge cycles in them, and slowly degrade on the shelf. Read up on how to extend battery life on LiON batteries. Apparently it’s at 40% charge in a freezer for storage. Probably one of the reaosns for planned obsolecense in portable electronics – chemistry hates us.

    Also, if you do happen to have an old analog phone – no dice, that system is shut down.

  • Its also good to have, give that landlines aren’t all that hard to sabotage from outside. Super easy from inside.

  • Excellent Idea! We don’t have a landline here at the apartment and while my iPhone is usually within arms reach I can’t say it’s always charged.

  • Tennessee Budd

    I’m 46, & the only reason I have a landline is for the internet connection.

  • @ Ian Argent: Well, user-controllable behavior is always the preferrable alternative, but I hate that I cannot leave things plugged into my car without it running the battery down.

    And, yeah, my parents have a pulse phone, and the darned thing is pretty much useless these days… Still, we have no phone, so backups are always good.

    @ Weer’d Beard: True enough. My house’s main breaker is actually outside as well, along with our cable and telephone junction boxes… a simple pair of wire snips, or even just an axe, would solve that “problem” for robbers and home invaders.

    @ mike w.: Yup, this is the height of “set and forget”, which is right up my alley :).

    @ Tennessee Budd: Straight cable here… even when we had a “landline”, it was a VOIP system through our company. Damned things are pretty much useless these days… and it is likely other generations are catching on to that too ;).

  • [...] of the great blog Walls of the City, had a great idea if you go ‘cell phone only’. I would strongly suggest a set up like that. He then returned to the second bedroom, discovered [...]