A rare 5.8 earthquake followed by hurricane Irene within one week of each other on the East Coast has made everyone think about emergency preparedness. I was on the 12th floor of an office building during the earthquake and for a few moments while the building was swaying, shaking, popping, and booming the terrifying thought of a collapse was on everyone’s mind. Fortunately, a scary but orderly evacuation from the building resulted in everyone being safe.
Unfortunately, while waiting outside while the fire department responded, everyone was trying to call and text their loved ones, with little luck. I had phones on both the T-Mobile and AT&T networks and was unable to SMS or call on either even after an hour! However, I was able to get on the internet with my phone and realized that data services were unaffected by the overload. The hurricane is currently blowing by with the power flickering but my phone still has internet connectivity. Here’s what I learned from these situations:
- Cell phone service will likely be unavailable during an emergency…plan on backup measures with your family.
- Sometimes, SMS messages will work if cell calls don’t but still may not be available or experience lengthy delays.
- Coordinate internet instant messaging from Yahoo, Skype, or Windows Messenger with your family and switch over to that when voice service isn’t available. Most smartphones nowadays can use those services. Configure and practice using those services BEFORE you need them.
- Strongly consider keeping a regular phone line at home with a old style phone (i.e. one that does not require a charged base station). Many people are eliminating the old copper line, but it could be critical in a power outage. A regular phone will still work if the power is out, and you could possibly use the line for emergency internet access (56K dial-up) if needed. Buy a USB modem, keep the dial up phone number handy, configure, and learn how to use it!
Be safe, and be prepared.