MIAMI (CBS4) – We need them the most during emergencies like approaching bad weather,  And that’s why cellular providers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have recently spent hundreds of millions of dollars improving their networks and set-up virtual emergency operations’ bunkers for all their back-up systems.

But as Isaac approaches South Florida, some of the biggest companies still admit they can’t guarantee service when big storms hit crowded areas like South Florida.

Madeline Andrade’s worried about losing her cell phone service the next time a bad storm hits Kendall.

“It’s great you can see the weather, get alerts send messages and pictures. But when I lose service, it’s terrible!” she said.

That’s why cellular service providers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to “harden” their systems.

This is AT&T’s emergency operations building in North Miami Dade.

It’s a window-less bunker full of emergency back-up batteries, generators and computerized switching systems to route calls around problem areas and make sure they get through.

But despite all the back-ups, industry insiders say they still can’t guarantee that 100% of the time…when you need to make a call in bad weather…it’ll get through without possible delays.

“No one can tell it’s 100% perfect,” said AT&T spokesperson Kelly Starling.

She advises customers to keep their calls during bad weather to the minimum. If there’s a problem with making a regular call, tried instead sending a text message that uses a lot less network “bandwidth” to get through.

How can you make sure you get the best service possible when the weather is at its’ worst?

–          Keep phones dry to avoid hardware failures.

–          Keep a hard copy print out of your emergency numbers in case the phone goes out.

–          Keep your phone and any spare batteries fully charged.

–          Limit non-emergency use

Miami resident Juan Fernandez says he’s happy he’s still his landline phone at his Miami-Lakes home as a back-up if his main cell phone goes out.

“It’s volatile enough even on a good day..I often lose signals or can’t get a call thru. So if for a few days I can’t get emails or text messages and the cellular service is down, it’s better than ending up with my roof inside my house,” said Fernandez.

While most major cell phone providers insist they’re better prepared for bad weather than several years ago, there’s still one problem they’re struggling to fix even in the best weather: network congestion.

Even with clear skies, calls can get disconnected and data service slows to a crawl with so many cell phones users clogging the cellular airways of South Florida.

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