How a Land­line Be­came My Life­line

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Make The Right Call -

In late Au­gust 1992, Hur­ri­cane An­drew, a Cat­e­gory 5 Storm, slammed into South Florida. At the time I was liv­ing in the sub­ur­ban com­mu­nity of Coun­try Walk, just north of Homestead, Florida. My home, along with many oth­ers in the com­mu­nity, was to­tally de­stroyed by An­drew. The morn­ing af­ter the storm I walked out of the shell that had once been my home with noth­ing more than the clothes on my back.

As I emerged out­side for the first time, I was struck by the sheer mag­ni­tude of the dev­as­ta­tion. Noth­ing was spared — trees, util­ity poles, power lines, ve­hi­cles, and homes were all com­pletely oblit­er­ated or heav­ily dam­aged.

I needed to get word to my friends and fam­ily that I was OK. But with so much dam­age and de­struc­tion, and no power, how would I com­mu­ni­cate with the out­side world? To­day most peo­ple would no doubt reach for their cell phones and hope they had ser­vice. But in 1992, few aver­age peo­ple had ac­cess to what was still very ex­pen­sive tech­nol­ogy.

Out of des­per­a­tion and habit, I reached for my land­line phone — in 1992 just about ev­ery home still had one. I was amazed to hear a dial tone; it was ac­tu­ally work­ing. I didn’t know it at the time, but the rea­son the land­line phone still worked in spite of the com­plete loss of power was be­cause the phone com­pany was still sup­ply­ing it with elec­tric­ity. I saw first­hand that lan­d­lines work even dur­ing a black­out.

I started to dial so fast that I got the num­ber wrong and had to hang up and start again. When my cousin — who lived fur­ther north and had not been af­fected by An­drew — picked up on the other end, I was so happy I al­most started to cry. With this land­line I was able to reach out to friends and fam­ily to ad­vise them of my con­di­tion. I could also ob­tain crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the road and in­fra­struc­ture dam­age out­side of the most se­vere im­pact zone — which I was cur­rently stand­ing in. With th­ese cru­cial facts, I was able to plan an evac­u­a­tion. Af­ter a few more calls, I agreed to stay with my cousin un­til I could make more per­ma­nent ar­range­ments. The land­line lit­er­ally be­came my life­line.

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