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Stay Off Phone During Earthquakes and Similar Events, Feds Urge

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After yesterday’s earthquake, a lot of people called their loved ones to ask, “Did you feel that?”  But the sheer volume of calls made it impossible for many other types of phone calls to get through.

Now, the federal government says it prefers that you stay off the phone during similar events.

“We’re sorry, all circuits are busy now…” was a typical recording callers heard shortly after the quake struck.  Cell phone companies say their networks were overwhelmed.

In reaction, the Department of Homeland Security sent out a “Tweet” telling people to hang up.

“Of course it goes against your first instinct,” notes Nick Morici, with FEMA in Philadelphia.  “We’ve found that through different emergencies and disasters throughout this country over the last ten years, the best way to get though at times is to use the text messaging system and to use e-mail.”

It’s unclear whether the consumer wireless and landline issues extended to any emergency communications, apart from too many jittery folks calling 911.  But it does rekindle memories of the radio failures of 9/11 — and the lack of progress on the federal goal to create a single system so public safety officials can talk to each other and get to real victims faster.

Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio 1060

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  • jack

    Maybe the main reason for owning a cell phone is BECAUSE of emergencies. I think it is very irresponsible for verizon and Att not to beef up the amount of towers so that when there is a situation such as this, people can contact their loved ones. Maybe they could spend just half the amount of money that they spend on redundant tv advertisements to insure that people can reach others.

  • Liz

    My daughter has a temp job in a warehouse now. After the quake, I was concerned about falling boxes and shelves since warehouses are basically rows of high shelves with a ton of boxes piled on them. Further, they are usually located on isolated roads because of their size.

    I tried to call her about 6 times, but couldn’t get through because the circuits were busy. I then tried to text her 10 times or more, but the texts wouldn’t go through either. While I hadn’t heard reports of seriouse damage, this combination of shelving, boxes, and remote location were of serious concern.

    I used both my T-Mobile cell and Verizon landline. They were both jammed. It was more than an hour before I spoke to her. None of my text messages were delivered to her.

    • Liz

      Note that, if they had a problem there, they would not have been able to call for help, either. Not even a text message got through.

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