Enterprises Should Make Their Own Emergency Plans

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-09-03 Print this article Print

Sprint Nextel, meanwhile, has moved the Sprint Emergency Response Team's fleet of mobile cell sites, including what the company calls SatCOLTs (for Satellite Cell on Light Truck) to provide communications in hard-hit areas. Those assets were moved from Orlando to Sprint's facility in Sterling, Va., in the Washington suburbs. 

While it's unlikely that these assets will be needed, it's clear that the wireless carriers are taking this and other real and impending disasters seriously. In the last decade, a series of hurricanes and other disasters have clearly demonstrated the critical nature of wireless communications. In addition, the massive tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, in which only one carrier, T-Mobile, was able to keep its network intact, has convinced the wireless industry to make sure that their networks are able to survive nearly anything

But just because wireless carriers will be able to keep their networks up and running doesn't mean that you don't have to make sure you keep your business up and running as well. First of all, in a real emergency, the chances are good that you won't be able to use your mobile device for anything other than sending SMS text messages. Emergency workers and first responders have priority codes that let them have first access to voice services on all wireless networks. This means that your call probably won't go through. 

But even if you can make a call, you should avoid doing so. Whatever wireless bandwidth is available needs to be preserved for true emergencies, and the normal operations of your business don't count as emergencies. Instead, you need to be making other plans, including making sure your business continuity plan is in place and operating. Other companies have done this for past hurricanes, and the critical importance of having a good, workable plan in place is hard to overstate. 

Meanwhile, it's also important that you make sure your employees are aware of the proper steps to take. This means passing along the emergency preparation recommendations being provided by public safety agencies as well as by the wireless carriers. Briefly, your employees need to make sure they've charged their phones, that they have a portable radio and flashlights with plenty of batteries, and emergency supplies of food and water for several days. You've seen these lists plenty of other places. 

But what's really critical is that the wireless services are making their plans, and have been making preparations for years to make sure that communications are available. They don't ever want to leave their customers and their communities without wireless access when the worst happens, and it seems that they're making very good progress in doing that.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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