The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States has expressed concern over the failure of used cell phone networks in the immediate aftermath of this week’s earthquake in the Washington DC area and beyond. The networks were unable to cope with the multitude of people trying to communicate with emergency services and loved ones in the wake of the drama and while they are downplaying the incident as a minor problem, the Federal Communications Commission is not so easily placated, feeling the inability of many to be able to call 911 in the wake of such an emergency to be a “significant” problem.
“We are very concerned by incidents where emergency wireless calls to 911 after yesterday’s earthquake were hampered by network congestion,” says Jamie Barnett, the Bureau Chief for FCC Public Safety & Homeland Security. “Thankfully there have been no reports thus far about serious injuries or lives being lost. Nevertheless, these are the moments when mobile phone service is most needed – and disruptions put lives at risk.” Barnett went on to say that his agency was already in communication with wireless carriers and public safety call centers in areas that were affected by the outages in an attempt to find out the reasons behind them and move to try and prevent a similar thing happening again under such circumstances.
Sean Kirkendall, the senior policy adviser for the Public Safety Adviser, says that the incident is proof positive that the idea of setting up a separate network for public safety officers is a crucially important one.