How to keep your phone lines open when the lights are out

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- While a phone with a low battery can feel like an emergency on an average day, during an actual emergency - like a power outage or wildfire - keeping your phone charged can be crucial. Here are some tips to keep your phone going after the lights have gone out.

Get a full charge on your phone: One good thing about PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoffs is that there is a little time to prepare. Be sure to charge your cell phone in the days and hours leading up to the shutoff. It's hard to predict exactly when the power will go out in your area, so don't be caught with a low battery percentage!

Use an external backup battery: External backup batteries are becoming widely available and less expensive. Get one and charge it ahead of time. To be extra-prepared, get multiple so you can leave the charged batteries in different locations.

Use other power sources for charging: Charged laptops can use used to juice up a cell phone or other small device, and car adapters can charge your phone as you drive.

Print a list of emergency contacts: If your phone does go dead - who do you call? If you have a friend's cell phone or a land line, you may be able to talk, but you'll need to know how to connect. Store a printed hard copy of essential numbers near a landline if you have one, and also keep one in your car and one with you.

Make your battery last longer: After charging your phone, make the battery last. Turn off unnecessary apps or settings, and turn down your screen's brightness. You can also put your phone on airplane mode or even turn it off if you really need to save power; just turn it back on to check in or send messages.

Data will be working: Most wireless providers stay abreast of emergency situations, and have backup generators to their towers. Even if your wifi is out, you should still be able to access data.

Get a landline: Only 45.9 percent of U.S. households still have a landline. However, if cell service is unavailable, it might be a great backup. They are powered by the phone company, not PG&E, so often they work when others phones don't. Cheap landlines that do not require electricity are still available -- contact your local provider about plans, and consult your favorite electronics retailer to see your options.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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