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The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the Department of Telecommunications and Cable urge residents to take pre-emptive measures this National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 7-13) to ensure readiness during emergency situations or power outages impacting their communications services.

Different services (for example, traditional wireline phone, wireless, or VOIP provided over telephone or cable companies’ networks) have different capabilities in emergencies or power outages. If you do not know what type of service you have, contact your provider.

Traditional Landline (Home phone, provided by a telephone company such as Verizon or Comcast):

  • During a power outage, traditional landline service that runs over a copper network will continue to operate. However, phone service over fiber (from your cable company, or Verizon FiOS) will not, and require batteries to continue operating during an outage (see VOIP below).
  • Keep a traditional corded phone for outages. Without power, a cordless phone will not work.

VOIP / Digital Voice (phone service from your cable provider, e.g. Comcast Xfinity Digital Voice, Verizon FiOS Digital Voice)

  • Most telephone and cable companies offer voice telephone service using VOIP technology known as Digital Voice service. NOTE: Always inquire with your provider about the type of voice service you have, and any differences from traditional telephone service.
  • VOIP voice services may continue with a battery back-up. Batteries may last up to eight hours. Check your modem/connection to be sure that it has a backup battery installed.
  • Consider purchasing a backup battery for extended service in the event that the power outage is prolonged and your initial battery does not last the full eight hours.
  • Each year make a safety check of your modem battery backup, just as you do with alarms and smoke detectors. Contact your provider or authorized dealer to purchase replacement/backup batteries. Internet based voice service providers such Vonage, Magic Jack and Skype rely on an internet connection to process calls. You may not be able to make a call using these services during a power outage.

Cell Phone:

  • Providing the emergency situation does not disable your wireless carrier’s primary network, you should be able to make calls.
  • During emergencies, use text messaging to communicate instead of voice calls, as data-based services like texts and emails are less likely to experience network congestion.
  • Keep your cellphone charged at all times. Have an alternative source to recharge your battery, such as using your car charger or extra mobile phone batteries.
  • Keep your cell phone and all equipment dry to prevent damage caused by water.
  • In the event of an emergency, you can use any wireless phone,even one that is not currently connected to a providerto call 911.

Other important tips:Hurricane

  • Keep a hard copy list of your important contacts.
  • Electrical and cable lines can come down during storms. Never touch a downed wire. It may be a live electrical wire or connected to live power. Contact your utility company instead.
  • State law requires cable operators to grant subscribers a pro-rated credit or rebate for service interrupted for 24 or more consecutive hours. Also, even if an entire tier of cable service is out for 24 hours – but not the whole service – the operator must still grant the credit.
  • After a storm cable operators must make every effort to restore service in their territories as soon as possible. When cable service has been restored, cable subscribers whose electricity is still on will have cable programming available immediately while communities without electricity must wait for electrical service to be restored before their cable can be operational.
  • Create an emergency communication plan with your family.
  • Review your insurance coverage and make preparations to minimize circumstances that can lead to claims.
  • Know your community’s evacuation plan and evacuation routes and how to receive alerts.
  • Download the FEMA appto get weather alerts straight to your phone.

If you have questions about your phone or cable service, contact the Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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