August 30, 2011

BRIAN CUNNINGHAM WRITES ON CELLPHONES AND DISASTER-PREP:

Hey, I saw your post from yesterday that mentioned using text messaging over voice during an emergency. I wanted to point out a good example of SMS being better than voice that just happened last week: The 5.8 earthquake that hit the east coast.

When the quake reached the particular area where I work in Maryland, pretty much every cell carrier’s voice service was unavailable as everyone was jamming the system trying to call their families. Texting worked fine, however, and in only a few moments I was able to text my wife to see if all was well on the home front, and check in with other friends to see if they were OK. All while people around me were still trying to use voice calls to contact family…on phones that were SMS capable. I guess it’s a generational thing.

Well, people find hearing family members’ voices reassuring in a crisis, I guess. But that instinct certainly carries costs. We should encourage people to avoid voice and use text in disasters or other situations where the system might be overwhelmed.