Severe Weather? Think cellular in an emergency

If you are of a certain age, severe weather often meant not just temporarily losing power, but also losing phone service. And one of the reasons that stops many people from dropping their landlines is the thought of finding themselves without the ability to communicate in a disaster.

As we enter the spring tornado season, it’s good to know that the major cellular providers are not only on top of keeping their services running in the event of a natural disaster, they’re also taking the extra step to help out customers affected by these events.

For example, when an early season tornado hit Harrisburg, Ill. In late February, an authorized Verizon retailer set up free Internet access and device charging stations. In March, Verizon offered similar assistance in Henryville, Ind. All emergency personnel and local residents were able to make free phone calls, re-charge cell phones regardless of their carrier and access the Internet through a Wireless Emergency Communications Center, a heated mobile trailer. Verizon also temporarily boosted capacity on its cell sites in the damaged area.

AT&T is the first company nationwide certified by the Department of Homeland Security for its ability to resume business operations, including reliable network traffic, when disaster strikes.  The firm has Emergency Communications Vehicles that provide LAN, Wifi for first responders and are able to get these mobile hot spots up and running in about 20 minutes. Additionally, AT&T is also able to bring in cell sites via truck to affected areas.

Starting this month, U.S. Cellular customers who have a Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS)-compatible mobile device can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These alerts are geographically targeted and essentially are an emergency text rundown of what is happening, what areas are affected, when the alert expires, what action should be taken and who is sending the alert.  Alerts sent to a phone will be accompanied by a unique signal and vibration. What’s really nice about the system is that there is no charge for these alerts and the do not impact voice, text or data usage.

Going into our severe weather season, I’m feeling a little more secure. Hope you are as well.

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