We're accustomed to using cell phones as a routine part of our daily lives, but they can also be a real life saver during unexpected occurrences. So we asked Bloggers around the Internet to share their thoughts on just how useful a cell phone can be during an emergency. Our first post comes from David Cassel. To read more from David, check out his posts at Tech.Blorge.
Are cell phones useful in crisis? Here's my favorite story. One family received a call from their mother about an emergency at the gas station. "Can you call them and tell them I'm stuck in their carwash?" The car washing mechanism had simply jammed, and she was pinned inside, unable to drive forwards or backwards.
"The stuff was on the side of the car swirling around," remembered a proud publicist for U.S. Cellular. "It was later at night and nobody was around... She didn't know the number of the station, so she called her home..."
That was when U.S. Cellular was trying to tout the advantages of a cell phone in your car -- but it makes an even more important point. Real life is unpredictable. ("I don't know if she would've gotten hurt if she didn't have a cell phone, " the publicist explained, "but she would've gotten wet!") Cell phones can be useful in emergencies -- but they're most useful in situations which are totally unpredictable.
In fact, even in an emergency, remember to use cell phones wisely -- and know when you shouldn't use a cell phone. In the same interview, the spokesperson also told me the story of a woman who driven into a ravine, and placed an emergency call to 911 saying "I'm in my car and it's sinking." He argued that these stories "make you thankful" for your cell phone. But my first thought was that if my car were actually sinking into a ravine, I wouldn't be stopping to make a phone call! I also remember when I interviewed a spokesperson for Verizon Wireless after a 6.8 earthquake had hit Seattle. Cell phones performed pretty well, but the spokesperson admit that "You simply can't build a network where you can have enough capacity that in a crisis, every call will go through the first time." In fact, it turns out that the standard advice for earthquakes is not to place calls unless they're absolutely necessary -- to free up the lines for those who really need them.
Parents love the ideas of tracking their children with cell phones -- but the teachers don't. Some schools are banning cell phones for children, and advising parents to track their children the old-fashioned way -- by calling the principal's office. But last month, MSNBC reported that "family locator" plans are available from Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Alltel for $9.99 a month (or $120 a year). Verizon's "Chaperone 2.0" service will even send parents a text message if the child strays from a pre-defined geographical area. And if your child's school opposes cell phones, you can always track your kids using another GPS-enabled devices.
Cell phones can be useful in emergencies -- one company is even selling a cell phone strap shaped like an IV for blood transfusions (which at least identifies your actual blood type). But it's important to use some common sense. (Remember that your child could still leave the cell phone in their jacket -- and then leaves that jacket behind!) One co-worker even claimed that they'd heard a story about a cell phone company that created a one-touch button to dial 911. Within a few weeks, they'd been asked to discontinue the button -- because 911 responders complained that people kept pressing the button by accident! Now I think about that story whenever I'm creating speed-dial shortcuts for emergency phone numbers.
Am I going to try to call my mom -- and then call the fire department by mistake?
This is a very informative article, keep the great blogs coming!