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Connectivity in the face of an emergency

Wed Sep 21, 2005 - 7:04 PM EDT - By James Hromadka

"All circuits are busy"

Before Hurricane Rita has even arrived in Houston, its effects are already being felt. I'm not talking about high winds or torrential rain—that won't get here until Friday night. The area mobile networks are completely saturated right now. I have become intimately acquainted with the redial (Phone,Phone) sequence on the Treo. Sometimes I would get a nasty recording telling me all circuits were busy, sometimes it would be 3 or for short beeps then disconnect, and other times the Treo would dial then immediately disconnect. After 5-6 tries I would eventually get through. Once connected calls went on as normal.

The saturation is not limited to T-Mobile. When I (eventually) spoke with friends that were on Cingular, they also complained about having to redial up to fifteen times to get connected. I imagine Sprint and Verizon users have similar problems. If a city of about four million people doesn't even have the mobile infrastructure to handle things before the storm hits, imagine how bad things are going to be after it's gone and there's damage to cell towers.

I eventually resorted to calling people using my home phone. It seems that a traditional landline is still the best tool prior to an emergency. Ironically, there is an article in The Wallstreet Journal today on how to keep your Treo and other devices charged during an emergency. My advice is to make sure your landline has a corded phone, as a cordless phone is useless when the power goes out.

You can discuss Hurricane Rita here.

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