Consumers: Get Ready for Fall With 5-Point Check List

NEW YORK - Normal September weekend chores include vacuuming the beach sand out of the car trunk and putting baking soda in the ice chest before stowing it away. But consumers also should cross-check their home telecommunications services to prepare for the hurricane and winter storm season, as well as the whirlwind of activities that autumn brings to family life.

Here's a checklist:

Corded Phone: Purchase an inexpensive phone with a cord that plugs into a wall jack. It's hurricane season, and winter storms are not far behind. Verizon's network is self-powered, so service stays on even during a power failure, provided the phone line itself is not down. Cordless phones won't work when the lights are out and neither will Internet calling services because the hardware requires power. Having a traditional corded phone available or always hooked up to an extension helps consumers stay in touch.

Call Forwarding: Among the calling services Verizon offers is one that can be a lifesaver: Ultra Forward/Call Ability. The service, available in some areas, lets customers forward calls from their home line to any number, anyplace, and remotely change the destination. This service was a huge help for some Virginia customers when the state was pounded by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Since Verizon's central offices were self-powered, the switches and the forwarding worked fine, and customers could have their calls come to them, wherever they went. Standard Call Forwarding, more widely available, must be programmed from home; so storm evacuees would need to set up the forwarding number before leaving the house.

Good Calling Plan: Consumers sending someone off to college should be sure they have a good any-distance calling plan so they can communicate as often and as long as they like. Verizon Freedom Essentials provides unlimited domestic calling, including calls to Puerto Rico, and the top three calling features -- Caller ID, Call Waiting and Home Voice Mail -- at prices starting around $35 a month. Consider Verizon's Away From Home services as well; Personal Toll Free calling or calling cards can save money.

Relocating: Moving season is almost over, but for customers who are moving into a new home now, Verizon can work with them to stop service at their old address and set up new services at their new home. Customers can duplicate what they have now or explore new options for calling plans, high-speed Internet and all-digital TV and music entertainment. Customers can call the service number on their bill or go online to their My Account page to work both ends of the move at once. Ordering online is easy and accurate. Customers can also temporarily suspend service in their vacation homes if they won't be there for a while. All they need to do is to make one call to get service turned back on.

Communicating: Answering machines are an anachronism and hardly as convenient as Home Voice Mail. And why trust hardware that can be hacked, stolen or simply break? Verizon's Home Voice mail is built into the company's switching systems, which run on multiple power supplies. As a result, the service works even when the lights go out, letting customers continue to send and receive messages during or after storms. Customers should get more than one password-protected mailbox to enable their families to easily sort messages. Home Voice Mail can be used to broadcast messages to lists of people, like pee wee football team parents. Customers can also use the service to communicate with family members in case of disaster by leaving and retrieving messages to each other. By activating wireless notification, customers can get a text message on their wireless phones each time a new message is left.

Finally, Verizon's service representatives can do a quick evaluation of customers' home communications needs and make targeted recommendations that will assure customers that they're getting what their households need this fall.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), a Dow 30 company, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving nearly 55 million customers nationwide. Verizon Business operates one of the most expansive wholly-owned global IP networks. Verizon Telecom is deploying the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network to deliver the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services to customers. Based in New York, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 252,000 and generates annual consolidated operating revenues of approximately $90 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.