That dilemma spawned the new business CTN Inc. , or CellTelNumbers.com (877-234-3645; www.celltelnumbers.com), an opt-in cell phone directory co-owned by local attorney Hugh Lambert and Anne Howard, CEO and project manager.
"Katrina and the evacuation brought home the need for a cell phone directory," Lambert says. "During Katrina, the only communications system that was functional was text messages. It's a separate system than the voice system, so it's capable of working when the voice communication by cell phone doesn't work. The problem was, we didn't have people's numbers."
The new company will allow anyone with a cell phone to get their numbers listed in the directory, which will be accessible with the touch of a button. Currently the first 5,000 people to sign up will receive a free listing for a year and also can sign up for automatic text messages about emergencies in their area. The regular yearly listing fee is $4.95. To register, visit www.celltelnumbers.com and fill out a form.
Lambert and Howard say CellTelNumbers.com is the first company in the United States to compile a cell phone directory and that the service will become essential as more people give up land-based telephone service in favor of cell phones.
"The use of land lines is becoming less and less," says Howard. "There's a real need for this directory. None of the (cell phone) carriers can agree on [a directory] because of privacy issues. We are nationwide and are the first in the United States."
Lambert and Howard emphasize that their system will protect a person's privacy because users won't access an online database. Instead, they will dial into the system from their cell phone and receive the requested number on their phone. In addition, when someone calls using the directory, they will be identified through caller ID. Besides cell phone numbers, the directory also can include email addresses, Web sites or trades by area code; each additional listing costs 25 cents.