Hanging up your landline could cut off a lifeline

Experts: Keep a landline for emergencies
Posted at 5:35 AM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-11 06:52:58-04

According to a U.S. government study released recently, 50.8 percent of homes and apartments had only cell phone service in the latter half of 2016, the first time such households attained a majority of the survey. The in-person survey of 19,956 households was part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview Survey, which tracks landline use in order to assure representative samples in ongoing health studies.

The trend is predicted to grow as years pass until one day a vast majority of people in the U.S. will only have a cell phone.

But local agencies, as well as the nonprofit National Emergency Number Association recommends people keep their landlines, in the case of an emergency. People who live alone and have a disability or medical condition are urged to keep a landline as they are more dependable for 911.

Also, it's recommended that families with young children keep a landline in case of an emergency.

"A landline telephone is 99.9% accurate. We're going to know exactly where to go. With a cell phone, we could be as far away as 300 meters, which is 3 football fields. That's a great distance during an emergency when every second matters," says Brad Herron, Director of Operations for the 911 Center at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

In the case of a young child calling 911, depending on their age they may not know their address or may forget to tell the 911 operator about an apartment or condo number. If 911 is dialed from a landline, all of that information automatically loads into the operator's computer and first responders will be sent to the address.

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Cellphones primarily use GPS for location. That combined with cell tower pings, the 911 operator may know which neighborhood you're in or even which building but not the specific house or apartment.

"We're not going to stop until we find you. But know that it could be a few minutes before we get to your door," says Herron.

Experts say another reason to hold onto that landline is it's always plugged in, in the same familiar place in the home, where children can access it.

"Accidents, fires in the kitchen, somebody breaking into your home, a medical emergency can occur in a split second. To try and go and locate your cell phone as your only point of communication, you're going to lose precious seconds," says Herron.

Children as young as 2 have made successful calls to 911 but Herron says most children learn what constitutes an emergency and how to call for help around kindergarten and first grade.

If your children know how to dial 911 or if you plan to teach them and only have a cell phone, it's recommended you and your family have a plan for emergency situations. Make sure your cell phone is always charged. Keep it in the same spot in the house, where a young child can reach it. And if you keep a passcode on your phone, make sure you child knows how to get past the lock screen to dial 911.