5.1 Landline and mobile phone systems

Landline and mobile (cellular) phone systems rely on existing local infrastructure. If these systems are operational after a disaster, they are the most convenient and cost-effective ways for emergency staff members to communicate with other offices and staff members, and should be used wherever possible. However, after a crisis, they are often disrupted – although recent experience shows that they are one of the first systems to be restored. See Annex 20.9 Mobile phone checklist.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Cheap calls within the local system
  • Easy to use
  • Minimal training necessary
  • Mobile phones are portable
  • Many office users may connect to one or many phone lines using a telephone switchboard
  • Likely to fail when disaster strikes
  • May require the installation of a telephone switchboard
  • Not useful outside mobile coverage
  • Uncontrolled use or overuse of mobile phones can be expensive
  • Some mobile company coverage may not be suitable
  • May be expensive for international calls

Other operational considerations:

  • Landline telephone systems require a physical cable to be installed between the telephone company distribution point (typically a roadside box or cabin) and the building where the telephone will be located. The telephone company must install this cable. The same telephone company or another company may be contracted to install a telephone switchboard and telephones at appropriate desks throughout the office.
  • Use of mobile phones, while relatively straightforward, can be made more effective by following a basic checklist to ensure all staff who require them have phones with the best coverage available, that pre-paid cards are fully stocked to avoid running out of credit in a crisis and that key numbers are pre-programmed into phones. See Annex 20.9 Mobile phone checklist, for a quick checklist and instructions.
  • See Annex 20.9 Mobile phone checklist, for quick set-up tips for mobile phones during an emergency.
  • Inventory management of mobile phones is important to ensure handsets are not often lost. See section 7.1.