Hurricane Irene, a Category 1 event with wind surges topping 80 miles per hour at times, battered the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut early Sunday morning, and is surging toward New England.
The hurricane is affecting those along the shoreline and several miles inland. Google's Crisis Response center offers a Google Map storm tracker of Irene.
The FCC said the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has rolled out four roll call units to police, fire and emergency medical communications systems, and TV and radio stations along the eastern coastline.
These units will provide first responders and carrier repair teams with information about what wireless communications are up or down in their area.
This is important. Widespread power outages are certain, so many users will be limited to relying on their wireless carriers to complete calls from their mobile phones. U.S. carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile have all fortified their network to prepare for Hurricane Irene.
However, people need to be aware of certain steps they can take to limit the impact on carrier networks in an emergency.
To help people in affected areas communicate with family and friends, the FCC offered the following advice:
- Limit non-emergency phone calls to minimize network congestion and conserve battery power if you are using a wireless phone.
- Keep calls brief, preferably only for emergency personnel and/or family.
- The FCC recommends users text message from their wireless phone. "In many cases, text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more "space" for emergency communications on the telephone network.".
- Use all communications devices at your disposal to connect with emergency personnel, family and friends. For example, if your landline doesn't work, try your mobile phone. If your mobile call can't connect, try text messaging. Ideally, this will spread communications over multiple networks and reduce overall congestion.
- To redial a number, push "send" after you've ended a call, but wait 10 seconds before redialing. When users redial too quickly, data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before a user resends the same data, adding to a congested network.
- Keep charged batteries and car-charger adapters available to back up power for a wireless phone.
- Program a list of emergency phone numbers in your phone.
- If in a vehicle, place calls while your vehicle is stationary.
- Designate a family member out of the affected area as a central contact, a person all family members impacted by Irene can contact if a family unit becomes separated.
- Forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation, which will help you receive incoming calls from your landline phone.
- If you lose power during the storm, use your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio-but only once the storm has passed and if it is safe to do so.
- Access broadcast and radio news for news alerts and updates about the hurricane.