By Dan Wagner, Published: May 22, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When disaster strikes, cell phone service is oftentimes among the first victims.
High winds, heavy rains, floods, hurricanes, thunderstorms and tornados can all knock-out cellular service to thousands in a flash. Suddenly those who need lines of communication most -- have no way to communicate with the outside world.
Natural disasters regularly disrupt all types of everyday services. Landlines and electricity go out. Water service is easily lost. Internet substations may be damaged, causing the signal to your house to go dark (if you still have electricity).
In short, we all need to have a back-up communication plan on stand-by in the event disaster hits home.
First responders to the devastating Moore, Oklahoma tornado have advised local residents to use their cell phones to send text messages to loved ones letting them know that they are okay. Even with the loss of so many cell towers, Moore residents may able to grab onto a faint signal from a distant cell tower not damaged by the tornado.
The problem is that the public's need to communicate far outweighs the limited bandwidth of any remaining cell towers. And if you try and try again to connect a voice call, you are unknowingly eating-up precious bandwidth at a time when so many others need it too.
If we remember to use lower bandwidth means of communication (texting, email etc.) during times of disaster, then many more people will be able to communicate with their loved ones. This is easy to say after the fact... but for those whose homes were pulverized by the recent tornado, hearing the voice of a loved one may be one of the few remaining comforts they have left.
The last thing they are thinking about is the fact that the bandwidth used to make their voice call could be used to send dozens -- or even hundreds of equally important text messages.