FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Candice Nicholson modeled a wall-mounted cord phone being sold by Hawaiian Telcom yesterday. A surge in cell-phone calls led many to use land lines.
Cell phone networks overloaded
The basic cord phone -- the one that hooks up to a wall outlet -- looked pretty good on Sunday, when cellular phones showed they were not immune to earthquakes.
Even pay phones were in vogue, as a surge in cellular calls for several companies frustrated customers with dropped calls, text messages that did not arrive for hours and calls that never went through.
The volume of calls coupled with the electrical outage to some cell antennas stressed the system, cell companies acknowledged.
Crews from providers such as Verizon Wireless and Cingular continued to work to fully restore service. They were hampered by lack of power in some areas.
Verizon Wireless experienced a 250 percent increase in call volume "during the height of emergency" Sunday compared with other Sundays, spokeswoman Georgia Taylor said. Service was not fully restored until 19 hours after the quakes.
Taylor encouraged customers to use text messaging during a disaster, saying that it can be more efficient and save battery power.
For T-Mobile the number of calls doubled. "There was an overload of calls going on," General Manager Roy Irei said.
All providers said they are equipped with generators and batteries and have trained their workers to prepare for emergencies similar to Sunday's.
As cells lost some of their luster, "old" technology was doing brisk business at the Hawaiian Telcom store on Bishop Street, where cord phones were sold out by 2 p.m. yesterday.
"Sometimes simple is best," said spokeswoman Ann Nishida, who said customers should add a basic cord phone to their emergency kit.
Also, those with telephone systems and fax machines that require power might need to be unplugged for a few minutes and re-plugged to restore a dial tone.
At Oceanic Time Warner Cable, service for most of its 31,000 digital phone customers was restored early yesterday.
Waialua resident Edit Hansen said she was able to make calls through her cellular phone soon after the quake occurred. But for most of the day, service was down. Hansen said her Cingular Wireless phone service was fully restored yesterday.
Tips on cellular phone use in an emergency:
» Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers in your phone.
» Have charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for backup power.
» Forward your home phone calls to your wireless number if you have to evacuate.
» Limit nonemergency calls to conserve battery power and to free up wireless networks for emergency services and government agencies.
» Send brief text messages rather than making voice calls.
» If you have a camera phone, send photos of damaged property to your insurance company.
Hawaiian Telcom customers who continue to experience problems can call the following numbers:
» For repair service for business and residential, call 611 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
» For residential service, sales and support, call 643-3456* (7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday).
» For business service, sales and support, call 643-4411* (7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday).
* Phone number can be dialed statewide.
Sources: Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Hawaiian Telcom