Despite ubiquity of mobile phones, most Northwest residents keep landlines for emergencies



​​​SEATTLE – In an age when virtually everyone from teens to those in their twilight years uses cell phones, the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance shows that nearly two-thirds of Northwest residents say their household keeps a hard-wired landline telephone despite a national trend that shows increasing acceptance of wireless phones as a home’s sole telephone.

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, 68 percent of Washington residents and 58 percent of people who live in Portland, Ore., say their home has a working landline. Of those respondents, two out of three say they use it regularly.

That’s in stark contrast to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows a steady increase in dependency on wireless phones as a household’s sole telephone device. According to the CDC, since 2009 wireless-only households have far exceeded landline-only households. In 2012 more than 38 percent were wireless-only households and just 8.6 percent were landline-only homes. About half of households surveyed used a combination of landlines and wireless phones.

“We were surprised to learn that in such a tech-savvy corner of the country, so many households still use landlines,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “But the rationale for keeping them seems to favor safety over other issues like cost and convenience.”

The PEMCO poll shows that more than one-third (37 percent) of Northwest residents with a landline say they keep it installed because they want phone service available in case of an emergency. Unlike cell phones, landlines are not vulnerable to power outages, mobile-network failures, or a weak battery.

Older residents, often characterized as less familiar with or less interested in cell-phone technology, are nearly twice as likely as younger people to say they have a landline phone – of those with a landline, 81 percent are over 55 years old compared to 39 percent of users under 35.

In emergencies, those who rely on cell phones may not be as prepared as their counterparts. According to the poll, about 75 percent of families in the Northwest don’t have a contingency plan for communicating with others if their mobile network goes down.

What’s more, despite many cell phones’ ability to double as a GPS, more than one-third (36 percent) of respondents don’t know if their location can be pinpointed by law enforcement if they call 911 from their mobile device.

Beyond safety reasons, many Northwest residents say they keep their landlines for convenience – nearly 40 percent say it’s the number they’ve given to service companies and don’t want to change it.

According to the poll, cell phones also enable a curious new communication pattern, especially for young people and families with teenagers at home: Almost two-thirds of cell-phone users under 35 say they regularly use their cell to communicate with other people inside their house. About the same amount (62 percent) of older adults with teenage drivers in the home say they do so, as well.

“This confirms what many of us see – people texting each other from across the room or from floor to floor, rather than talking face to face,” Osterberg said. “Technology is changing how we interact.”

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2013/

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 400 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent and +/- 5.0 percent respectively at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit