Satellite Phones


Is a Satellite Phone Part of Your Emergency Kit?  

When Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast in late October 2012, authorities predicted massive power outages, many lasting days or weeks after the end of the storm. Most people made sure to charge their cellular phones before the storm, but as the days without power continued on, many people found their phones with limited – or no – battery power.

However, an even more pressing issue is the lack of power to many of the cellular towers in the storm-devastated areas. You might have a phone with full battery power, but if the nearest transmission tower is out of commission, you aren’t going to have much luck using your cellular phone. And when there is a storm like Sandy, which effectively took out nearly 20 percent of the cell towers in the mid-Atlantic region, it becomes even more important to find a means to make calls—and in a life or death situation, you do not want to be at the mercy of traditional telecommunications.

Including Satellite Phone into Your Disaster Plan

After Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of families back in 2005, the federal government, with the support of state and local emergency agencies, began encouraging families to create disaster plans and keep emergency kits on hand.

Ideally, every household should have an emergency kit that contains enough basics to take them through several days without utilities, including food, water, batteries, warm clothing and blankets. However, one area that’s often overlooked in emergency planning is communications. Most emergency professionals advise people to keep their cell phones charged – failing to recognize that they will not always work in the event of a natural disaster.

For that reason, it’s important to consider adding a satellite phone to the emergency preparedness checklist. Unlike a cell phone or landline which relies on towers or switchboards to operate, satellite phones route calls through satellites above the earth’s atmosphere. Whether you are in the middle of a major city after a power outage or in the wilderness, where there is not a tower within a hundred miles, a satellite phone allows you to make and receive calls when you need to, connecting you to vital, and possibly life-saving services.

Accessing Satellite Phone Services

Although satellite phones are an effective means to stay in contact during an emergency, and work even in rural areas where cellular service is spotty (or nonexistent), they are still not that common. The reason for this is simple: cost.  While a basic cell phone plan can cost as little as $20 or less per month in some markets, a satellite phone is significantly more expensive.  Satellite phone handsets run from around $400 to upwards of $1,500 each, and calls are billed by the minute; depending on where you are and where you are calling, rates can be as high as $10 per minute or more.

When a life-threatening emergency occurs, that fee may seem inconsequential, but there is a way to access a satellite phone without investing a significant amount of cash. The satellite phone rental market is robust – it’s possible to rent a phone when there is the threat of severe weather, or before you travel to a location where you may not be able to communicate via traditional means.

Depending on the company you rent the satellite phone from, you can expect to pay a daily rental fee (usually around $10 per day or less) plus a per-minute fee for the calls you make. Some companies do not charge for incoming calls, or to send or receive text messages. You can usually rent satellite phones for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, meaning that you can have a means to communicate from the minute that you learn a storm is headed your way until you are back in your home, with the electricity functioning as usual.

Of course, when a major storm like Sandy is in the forecast, it’s important to make your communication plan as soon as possible and get your satellite phone rental into place. Demand for phone rentals increases during emergencies, and if you wait too long, you may find it more difficult to get the device you need.

When a major emergency occurs, it can be a matter of days, weeks or even months before everything returns to normal and you can use your cell phone or landline phone again. Adding a means of communication to your emergency preparedness kit will keep you in touch with friends, family and emergency services after the storm – and could even save your life.

Have you considered adding a satellite phone to your gear?  What do you see as the Pros and Cons?

This has been a guest post, read about the author below.  If you are interested in another way to incorporate satellite communications into your disaster preparations please read this post I did a while back:

About the Author of this post: Walter Lessard, a native of Kansas, first became interested in emergency management when his hometown was destroyed by a tornado; since then, he has advocated for emergency preparedness and building emergency kits. He uses technology such as that found through Global Satellite Communications in his own kits.

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6 thoughts on “Satellite Phones

  1. I didn’t even know what a satellite phone was beforehand. I guess I shouldn’t be without one.

  2. We use Excede satellite internet, it takes about 30minutes to setup, and works well. Just point south with a clear view of the sky and you are set! It’s great to have if you are RV’ing and are in the middle of nowhere as it’s a great distraction.

  3. Thanks for the article,. Every emergency kit should include a satellite phone, portable satellite internet device and portable solar charger. Check out the Joos Orange solar charger, it’s really impressive.

  4. Satellite phones should definitely be a part of an emergency kit because you never want to be caught in a situation where you cannot contact loved ones. Thanks for sharing.

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