the IT city, the I.T. Baby


Preparing your communications scenario for incoming baby

Baby angry that one pig didn't get taken out by bricksValentine’s day brought a few things to my AT&T friends in Nashville. For most it brought about a complete cell service outage as something went wrong deep within their network.

For a particular couple of my friends it meant that it was time to deliver their baby over a month early, and all of the sudden there were no means of communication. No way to make a phone call to the hospital (although 911 service was not affected as I understand it,) and no way to communicate with friends about their incoming baby.

Most learned of the birth of their child via Twitter or Facebook. Now this is not exactly a nightmare scenario, nobody died, news got out pretty fast, but it could have been a scenario where she ended up in the hospital and he wasn’t contactable.

Similar situations happen all the time and there are some high and low tech solutions.

Get a landline

Landlines generally go over networks that work. They’re not cutting edge, but they get the job done. Unfortunately getting a landline generally means both parties will need access to one, and a centralized voicemail service. Still, they’re useful to have in a house for emergencies.

During hurricane Katrina the cell networks failed, but the old Bell networks continued to function. Unfortunately a landline is not exactly portable under most circumstances, but you can route phone calls over it if you want to be tricky.

Get a signal booster

Most cell phone companies offer in-home signal “boosters.” Basically they’re a little portable internet-based tower that will allow you to make and receive phone calls via the internet.

I’ve written about them before at my other gig. I have a situation where I have a five-bar tower signal and don’t get calls most of the time because my tower is completely overloaded.

These function in most conditions as long as you have an internet source. Most carriers will let you have one for free if you’re experiencing issues with your service, but you can call up and ask nicely for something that acts as a backup to the tower for use for a month or two.

With how pissed off at cell phone companies people are these days, carriers are going to greater lengths to please their customers, and $10 in shipping and a couple month loaner can be vital to keeping someone as a customer.

Can’t hurt to check.

Have a real communications plan for incoming baby

Stuff fails. Phones die. Chargers break. Random storms take out a cell network. In my neighborhood 5:10-6 is pretty much forget about getting a call in or out time (although the Airave mitigates that problem for me).

Having phone number written down, physical maps to hospitals, and a plan for what to do is the only sure way to ensure you and your loved one are at the hospital for delivery at the same time.

  • Have work phone numbers written on paper
  • Follow up texts with phone calls – texts fail alarmingly
  • Follow up emails with phone calls
  • Clear and check your voicemail. Sometimes you won’t see that you missed a call but you will see you have a new voicemail. If you leave 30 voicemails unlistened to, forget about seeing your wife’s call that went straight to voicemail and never rang you.
  • Use an internet-based communications tool you can check from work. Be this Twitter, email, etc.
  • Have a plan if you lose communication, perhaps bring a third party into the mix, plan to leave a sign on the door if she’s headed to the hospital and can’t reach you, etc.

That’s about the extent of what I have without attempting to scare people. Just plan on your primary and secondary means of communication failing, treat it like all modern technology will fail when it’s time for delivery, and you’ll be good.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.