How to Be Power Cut Prepared in 3 Steps

Vikki BournerWritten by Vikki Bourner, on 01 Jan, 2024

Relying on your landline during a power cut will soon be a thing of the past, so here’s how to be power cut prepared.

One thing you could always count on if you had a power cut, is that your landline still worked. You could call your energy supplier to report it and find out when it would return. Or you could call family such as parents or grandparents to see if the outage had affected them and if they were ok. You always had peace of mind that you could pick up the telephone and call for help in an emergency.

No more landlines

Now that the copper lines that have run our landline phones for the last one hundred years are retiring, people are nervous about switching over to digital voice. The anxiety lies in the fact that VoIP phones need electricity to work. People are concerned (and legitimately so) that should the electricity fail, they will have no contact with the outside world. The fear is that they will feel isolated and alone with no means to call for help.

Prepare for a power cut in 3 easy steps.

Mobile issues

Of course, for those who have mobile phones, losing home phone power won’t be an issue. With 98% of adults in the UK (as of January 2023) owning a mobile, this looks like the perfect solution.

As always though, when you dig a little deeper into stats you usually find all is not what it seems. And that’s the case with mobile ownership. According to Statista, in 2022, only 67% of those aged 65 and over owned a smartphone. Throughout 2023, that figure remained the same. When you also consider that there are still 8% of the country (rural areas) who cannot receive a mobile phone signal, you’re left with a considerable portion of the potentially vulnerable population without a mobile phone for backup.

Mobile phones aren’t a back-up for everyone, with low signal areas.

Government intervention

For a long time now, the Government has required all phone providers to ‘take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations, including during a power cut.’ And this hasn’t changed with the rollout of VoIP and digital voice.

Back in 2018, Ofcom published a guidance for phone providers in respect of switching customers over to VoIP. It stated that,

  1. ‘Providers should have at least one solution available that enables access to emergency organisations for a minimum of one hour in the event of a power outage in the premises.’
  2. ‘The solution should be suitable for customers’ needs & should be offered free of charge to those who are at risk as they are dependent on their landline.’
  3. ‘Providers should i) take steps to identify at-risk customers & ii) engage in effective communications to ensure all customers understand the risk & eligibility criteria & can request the protection solution.’
  4. ‘Providers should have a process to ensure that customers who move to a new house or whose circumstances change in some other way are aware of the risk & protection solution available.’

We’re sure you’ll agree that the vagueness of the above puts into question how providers will protect the vulnerable from loss of communication with a power cut.

The Government and Ofcom require everyone to have access to emergency services in a power cut.

Fast forward to 2024

Pressure from the government, charities and Ofcom has led to BT Openreach announcing a delay in their digital voice rollout. The Technology Secretary has asked phone providers not to force those considered vulnerable over to digital voice until suitable protections are in place.

Having listened, communication companies signed the updated PSTN Charter. It states that:

1. We will not undertake any non-voluntary migrations to digital landlines until we have full confidence that we are taking all possible steps to protect vulnerable people through the migration process.

2. No telecare users will be migrated to digital landline services without us, the customer, or the telecare company confirming that they have a compatible and functioning telecare solution in place.

3. Where battery backup solutions are provided, we will work to provide solutions that go beyond the Ofcom minimum of 1 hour of continued, uninterrupted access to emergency services in the event of a power outage.

4. We will collectively work with Ofcom and the Government to create a shared definition of ‘vulnerable’ customer groups that require greater support, specific to the digital landline migration.

5. We will conduct additional checks on customers who have already been non-voluntarily migrated to ensure they do not have telecare devices we were unaware of, and if they do, ensure suitable support is provided.

The industry has now postponed the full retirement of the PSTN to the end of January 2027.

The PSTN has been delayed until 2027.

Be power cut prepared

If you are not considered vulnerable and you’re wondering how you can still communicate should your power fail, then there are 3 key things that you can do yourself to make sure you’re power cut prepared.

  1. Many suppliers have chosen to fulfil their obligations to Ofcom & their customers by offering a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) or in layman’s terms, a battery backup for the router. This will allow you to make calls for a certain amount of time should you have a power outage. According to Age UK, some providers are offering a free UPS to customers if they meet the vulnerability criteria. You can, of course, purchase your own UPS to have on standby to be power cut prepared.
  2. Add yourself to your energy supplier’s priority list. You can do this by calling or by going online. If you meet certain criteria, you will become a priority in cases of planned power cuts or support in emergencies. Give them as much information as possible & explain your potential needs should your power fail. Some phone & broadband suppliers have a priority list too, so give yours a call to find out.
  3. See if your community has emergency resources available to you to access & also create an emergency communication plan. Talk to friends, family and neighbours. Organise with them a plan that ensures you’re not left feeling alone & cut off should your electricity fail.

It can be hard to ask for help. But once you’ve prepared yourself as we’ve suggested, then you can have peace of mind when switching over to digital voice.

You can be prepared should your digital voice home phone lose power.

One more thing…

There is a fourth option when it comes to preparing yourself for a power cut. And that’s CallGuard from us here at Phonely. As a company, it’s our mission to make everyone feel protected against telephone scams and prevent the feeling of isolation. With CallGuard you can nominate a trusted person (family, friend or neighbour) to be your backup, just in case. One of the key features is that should your phone go offline (like in the event of a power cut) for more than 10-15 minutes, your trusted person will be notified. They can then make arrangements to find out if you’re ok.

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