Fortunately, there are other
means to communicate besides making phone calls. The easiest for most people is
simply to use Short Message Service (SMS) texting. This is because text
messages require very little bandwidth, and they're not particularly time-sensitive.
You can, for example, text "OMG-A Quake!" to your friends and the message will
probably get through.
Now that more and more
emergency operations centers and 911 call centers are being equipped to handle
text messages, this can be an effective means of getting help if you really
need it during a disaster. But there are other things you can do, if you plan
For example, you can
encourage employees who happen to be amateur radio operators to keep a radio at
work. Your company can even buy the radio for them, and you can encourage
employees to get their ham radio licenses. It's important to know that these
radios can only be used for true emergencies, such as threats to life or
safety. You can't use ham radio to do anything related to conducting your
business. But if an employee gets injured during a disaster and the landlines
and mobile networks are out, your resident ham radio operator can use the radio
to call for help.
Another option is to employ
alternate communications, such as Skype or instant messaging. Just because the
phones are overloaded, that doesn't mean you can't reach out on the Internet.
It still might be possible to place voice over IP calls, send email, instant
messages or social networking posts.
You can, for example, send
out a Tweet saying that everyone is safe or tell your employees not to come in
until next Monday. Because you can do this with a bandwidth demand similar to
SMS, the chances are very good that your messages will get through. This is
especially the case because you can send a Tweet using SMS if you like.
The bottom line, of course,
is to plan for an emergency in which the phones, both wireless and wired, don't
work. Plan how you would handle this for something short term, such as after
the Tuesday quake, or something long term, such as a major hurricane that would
disrupt communications for days.
Test alternate communication
methods; try out VOIP in case it will still work for you, and send out some
test Tweets. While you're at it, do the other things that the emergency
services recommend in disaster situations. Have plenty of flashlights and
batteries along with an adequate stock of first-aid supplies for your company.
Stock up on bottled water. Most important, have a plan because you won't be
able to phone home after the quake to find out what your plan should be.