This year, in the United States and around the world, natural disasters have affected communities in immeasurable ways. As I reflected on the tragedy of these events, the need for effective communications tools that reach all people instantly became clear.
In the past decade, mobile networks in the U.S. have gone from being among the first services to go down in an emergency, to being one of the most resilient technologies, relied on by governments, businesses and individuals for critical communications.
On September 11, 2001, cellular networks were largely wiped out or overloaded, making it impossible for many New Yorkers to make a call or send a text message to their loved ones. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, 70% of cell towers were taken out, resulting in a complete collapse of cellular communications. Since then, connectivity has improved dramatically.
The need for communications in times of crisis became so apparent following Katrina, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the Katrina Panel Order, recommending that several communications providers be required to have emergency backup power capabilities. While some mobile carriers have lobbied against the FCC’s recommendations, they have since enhanced their emergency power capabilities to the extent that it is now the norm for cellular towers to be equipped with robust backup battery systems or generators. Some are even directly connected to natural gas pipes for backup power.
By 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York, the cellular networks held up remarkably well, even while millions of people were cut off from electricity. This season, when Hurricane Harvey struck, only 4% of cellular towers in its path were knocked out, making it possible for most (though not all) people affected by the hurricane to use their mobile phones to communicate with emergency responders and loved ones.
As a business, having the capacity to contact all of your employees instantly is not only useful for business continuity, but could truly mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. For these reasons, the U.S. Government’s Ready Campaign emphasizes the importance of being instantly responsive in times of crisis.
With the the resilience of today’s mobile networks, the capacity for businesses to send a message out to all employees instantaneously makes it possible to keep more people safe when disaster strikes. Though many employees don’t work at a desk, just about everyone carries a mobile phone with them. This makes it imperative to use mobile messaging rather than email if you need to reach all of your employees at once.
Several of our customers have mobile workforces of thousands of employees, and in many cases, remote working employees are responsible for maintaining critical systems in industries including healthcare and facilities management. Whether it’s telling employees not to come to work, alerting them of emergency safety procedures, or providing real-time updates on the situation at hand, instant messaging can become a life saving technology.
Since Hurricane Harvey, our customers have shared concerns with us about their ability to reach their employees in an emergency. One customer, who had not yet implemented our communications app actually created a Twitter account in an attempt to reach employees affected by the storms.
What recent events have taught us is that it is increasingly important to develop an emergency response plan that utilizes mobile communications to keep your team safely and effectively engaged. If you are responsible for managing a mobile workforce, we encourage you to contact us to find out about how our communications tools can help you prepare for whatever the future holds.