AT&T announced yesterday they were making at least 2,000 GoPhone devices with $15 of air time available to residents who were ordered to evacuate due to hurricane Gustav. Evacuees* can find devices at all AT&T owned and operated locations in Houston and San Antonio. The devices will be available at these AT&T retail locations on a first-come, first-service basis. The phones are expected to be available as early as tonight, so click here to find a participating AT&T store.
"In times of crisis, the ability to connect with family and friends is a necessity and, at the same time, comforting," said Chris Penrose, vice president and general manager for AT&T's wireless unit in south Texas. "Hopefully, this offer will allow many of those forced from their homes by Hurricane Gustav to take care of critical needs or simply reconnect with loved ones."
With hurricane season in full bloom, AT&T has provided consumers with helpful safety tips along with how you can maximize your service during and after a hurricane.
- Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain that all family members know whom to contact if they become separated.
- Be sure you have a "Hurricane Phone." It's a good idea to have a wireless phone on hand and at least one corded (landline) telephone that is not dependent on electricity in case of a power outage. Cordless telephones usually have receivers that are electrically charged, so they won't work if you lose your power.
- Program all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
- Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as charging your wireless device by using your car charger or having extra mobile phone batteries or disposable mobile phone batteries on hand.
- Keep your wireless phone dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering.
- Forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. Because call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get incoming calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted at your home. In the unlikely event that the central office is not operational, services such as voice mail, call forwarding, remote access call forwarding and call forwarding busy line/don't answer may be useful.
- Track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device. Many homes lose power during severe weather. If you have a wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports through MobiTVÂ® or AT&T Mobile TV or keep updated with local radar and severe weather alerts through My-CastÂ® Weather, if you subscribe to those services.
- If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos ? even video clips ? of damaged property to your insurance company from your device.
- Take advantage of location-based mapping technology such as AT&T Navigator, available on some wireless devices, to seek evacuation routes or to avoid traffic congestion from downed trees or power lines.
Maximizing Service During and After a Hurricane:
- During an emergency, more people are trying to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume may create network congestion, leading to "fast busy" signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.
- Try wireless text/short messaging service (SMS). During an emergency situation, text messages will often go through quicker than voice calls because they require less network resources. All of AT&T's wireless devices are text messaging capable. Also, if you have a wireless data device such as an Apple iPhone or a BlackBerryÂ® smartphone, you can use its messaging capabilities to communicate. Depending on the call plan, additional charges may apply.
- Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum, and limit your calls to the most important ones. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.
*Residents eligible for the offer must be 16 years or older and show a valid photo identification, including ZIP code from an area declared a mandatory evacuation area. The offer is good for one phone for each person.