Recode has an insightful article on a “wonky debate” about our national emergency communications infrastructure. The wireless (and often land-line) telephone carriers and even some device makers are arguing that they shouldn’t be required to update the network for modern emergency-related support.
Hurricane Harvey is now putting this all into perspective. From the article:
To most Americans, wireless alerts are mere annoyances — loud interruptions that have spawned no shortage of news stories over the years explaining how to turn them off. Generally speaking, most of these quick text bursts can be disabled through a smartphone’s notifications or settings page, with the sole exception of so-called “presidential alerts,” which are reserved for the most dire national emergencies.
To public-safety officials, however, the alerts are a lifeline for dispatching critical, real-time information during a disaster — albeit, for some, an outdated one. For years, police officers, firefighters and other first responders have urged the FCC to expand the system so that it takes advantage of the tools that make smartphones so useful — like links to websites, maps of affected areas and photos and videos.
The bottom line: your cell phone may, or may not, be of use to you in an emergency. One of the biggest challenges in responding to a major disaster is getting the word out: how to stay safe, how to find those who need help, and how to coordinate with your loved ones.
We recommend that you have the following simple things together in a handy place:
- A few bottles of water & some protein-rich snack bars (water for pets too)
- A basic first-aid kit
- A wind-up radio
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- A whistle or two
- If you take regular medicines of any kind, put a small baggie of those meds in too
- Optional but important: an family (FRS) radio with extra batteries