Many people buy cell phones to keep in the car for "emergency use only." They often pay rates such as $15/month and $50 sign-up fees. These fees are NOT necessary.
You can use a used cell phone to call 911 without paying anything at all. Cell phones are regulated by the FCC. FCC requirements state that ALL cell phones, regardless of status of service (or even the lack of service) must be able to dial 911. Whether you have a telephone number or not, whether you have signed up for service or not, your cell phone can connect to 911.
You can also buy a new cell phone for only $5 at any large supermarket. You don't need to pay for service.
There are two kinds of cell phones: analog (the old, thick cell phones) and digital (the slim phones.) Analog phones are out of fashion because the signal wasn't very clear. But they still work. You can buy an old analog phone for $5 or less at yard sales or the small shops that sell cell phones and pagers. Insist on buying it without service. Be sure to get a cigarette-lighter adapter cord with it (you can buy these at any cell phone store, Target, Walmart, etc.) You can also buy emergency cell phones without service at CraigsList.com, eBay.com, etc. Used digital phones sell for less than $15.
In many areas, you can place other calls as well. Test this by dialing a friend's number and see what happens. You may get an operator who will offer to place the call for you and bill your credit card. The call may cost up to $3 per minute, but that's cheaper than paying $15/month for years. You can use this if you have a flat tire and so on.
In some areas, when you press 0 (zero) or dial a number, an operator will answer and ask if you want to charge the call to your credit card. Just use your credit card to place the call. You can also have the phone reprogrammed. Reprogramming enables the cell phone to make credit card calls. Some services can reprogram phones for about $30.
Keep your emergency phone in your car under the seat or the trunk (but not in the glove compartment, where things are often stolen.) You don't need to recharge it or keep it charged. Just plug the phone into your car's cigarette lighter, turn it on, dial 911, and it will work.
Abby, a 12-year old in Maryland, started a project to collect used cell phones for emergency use only. You can do the same in your church, community center, at work, your coffee house, or your favorite gathering spot.
Please pass this along to your friends. If you publish a newsletter, include this text. Send this to your local newspaper for publication. Cell phones are great for safety on the road, esp. for women.