GovBytes: Lessons From The Quake – Do We Need An Emergency Broadband Network?

For many of us along the east coast, the jitters of experiencing an earthquake were followed by the inconvenience of being unable to use our cell phones. In the wake of the quake, cell providers were overwhelmed with people calling 911 and one another to see if loved ones were okay. Service was down for some for hours, and even text messaging was sporadic.

An article by Corey McKenna at Government Technology points out how disconcerting the incident actually was from a public safety standpoint. Without a working cell network, the ability of police and firefighters to communicate with each other and with citizens in need may be hampered.

“We are very concerned by incidents where emergency wireless calls to 911 after [Tuesday’s] earthquake were hampered by network congestion,” FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett said in a statement. “Thankfully there have been no reports thus far about serious injuries or lives lost.”

East Coast Quake Highlights Need for Public Safety Wireless Network

One result of the congestion has been renewed calls for a broadband emergency network that would allow calls among first responders and emergency personnel to take precedence in times of crises. Beyond natural disasters, terrorist attacks that could lead to widespread panic and/or bring down usual modes of communication, like cell lines, are another concern — particularly in the D.C. area.

For the most part, landlines, email and handheld radios sufficed in this instance. But anything that inhibits officials’ ability to do their jobs efficiently is arguably a problem. A dedicated network is one solution, but we’re curious at GovLoop what other takeaways there might be from this unusual event.

What did you learn from the earthquake, and what can government do to be better prepared for emergencies?


“GovBytes” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with Government Technology. If you see great a story on Gov Tech and want to ask a question around it, please send it to [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply