Phone Zaps

Phone and/or Fax "Zaps"

Phone and fax "zaps" are an easy and direct way of letting public officials and others know what you want them to do or to stop doing. It may involve voting on a particular bill, or actually implementing plans they have proposed but haven't acted upon. You may want to pressure "higher-ups" in the name of their constituencies.

People in positions of power take such actions seriously.

Politicians, for example, usually keep track of their pro and con calls on controversial issues.
The advantage of a fax over a phone call is that your entire message gets directly to the specific person you want to reach rather than to a secretary or switchboard operator. And you can be creative and send graphics as well as words. However, faxing costs more than a phone call.

Phone and fax zaps are particularly useful when you need to respond to something quickly.

Different types of phone and/or fax zaps

There are different ways of doing phone and fax zaps, depending on your goals. Here are examples of phone and fax zaps that have served different purposes:

One group wanted to pressure a local employer who was refusing to hire people with HIV. Members of the group had already spoken to company officials who refused to meet with them and were unresponsive to their demands. They decided to use a phone zap-to make as many phone calls as possible to the company's general number for as many days as possible and to keep whoever answered on the phone for as long as possible. Their goal was to interfere with the company's usual business. When people called they demanded that the company change its policy. After a couple of days with their switchboard jammed up, company officials called the group, offered to meet, and eventually changed their policy.

Another group wanted their local city council to maintain funding for AIDS services, which one influential member was proposing be cut from the budget. The day before the budget votes were due, large numbers of people called that member demanding that the funding be maintained. Other people called their own city council representatives to make sure they would vote against cutting that item out of the budget. The funds were maintained.

Still another group decided to use faxes to get their massage across. This group wanted to let their health commissioner know that his AIDS case projections for their city were grossly underestimated. He had refused to meet with them or to address their concerns in any way. They wanted to reach him but also to embarrass him in front of the influential people he often met with. They found out his weekly appointment schedule and faxed him a message at each meeting-a sketch of a dead skunk with the words, "Mr. , your AIDS statistics stink!"

How do you get phone numbers? Fax numbers?

Most government agencies or companies have general numbers that are listed in the directory or can be received from directory assistance. Sometimes you may want to use those. At other times you'll want to get directly to a particular person. Make sure the number you get is that person's direct line. If it's unlisted, you can call the general number in advance and ask for the particular person's extension. Some fax numbers are listed with directory assistance; others are not. If not, you can call the office and say you need the fax number in order to send something. They'll usually give it to you. You may have to be creative in order to get the direct phone lines of "higher-ups," but usually you can get the numbers.

How many people do you need?

A phone or fax zap can work even if you have just a few people. Each person can make more than one phone call (some people use different names each time) or send more than one letter or leaflet. In fact, with a fax zap, one person can send the same message all day or for days on end.

If you want to get lots of people to join in a phone or fax zap, you can make up a one-page flier or fact sheet, asking people to call or fax and telling them why they should do it. Give them the number and tell them, what they might say in a few words. Be sure to say when you want the zap to happen-at a particular hour, on a particular day, during a particular week; or at any time, ect.

You can use your organizational mailing list to get to a lot of people. You can leave fliers in your workspace if people are coming in and out. You can go to community events for several weeks or days and hand out fliers. Or post them in community spaces (a tear-off number works well). Or even put an ad in a local newspaper or newsletter. Try to get as many people as possible to join in.

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