Thank you to Verizon Wireless for sponsoring this post.
In a time of crisis, communication and the flow of accurate information become more important than ever. Unfortunately, our communication system is also vulnerable to the very forces that create a crisis in the first place – floodwaters, freezing temperatures, wildfires, winds, and so on.
When my little Texas town was devastated by floods caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, I experienced firsthand the stress, confusion, and delay in emergency response caused by the destruction of our cell service. Timely and accurate communication and information is the most important component of all when it comes to responding in a crisis, and for several weeks we struggled without it.
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I volunteered to assist in the role of a dispatcher using nothing more than my smartphone and a phone app. It was my job to direct responders to people in need. The lack of information became the enemy as phone and computer lines were down. Our smartphones were plenty smart – when they were connected.
One panicked person began spreading the rumor that the city’s water system was tainted. Sometimes responders were sent to wrong addresses and, incredibly, bed-ridden residents of a care home were evacuated and transported hours away to another city without relatives being informed!
Once the floodwaters receded, thousands were left homeless, scrambling for emergency housing, food, clothing, and every necessity of life – everything they owned was gone. Churches were the first of the first responders to jump into action, and within hours they were dispensing cases of water, cleaning supplies, and hygiene kits. But even they ran into issues with a lack of information, miscommunication, and the inability to immediately identify and contact their own members who most needed assistance.
Sometimes information arrived too late to be useful and conflicting information caused man-hours and supplies to either be wasted or go unused. Everyone wanted to do something, and in that respect, our town was incredibly resilient.
By far, we relied on mobile technology to contact each other, post on social media, and communicate offers of help, but in some cases, it was several weeks before connectivity was restored.
In an emergency, smartphones provide GPS directions, we can download survival manuals, text family to let them know we’re still alive, and use apps to take a crash course in First Aid. It could be said that smartphones have become an integral tool in our emergency kits.
We’ve come a long way from the very first generation (1G) of mobile technology. Those first cell phones gave us the ability to call anyone from any location, and at the time, it was pretty impressive! Fast forward some 36 years and a fifth generation, 5G, has arrived with Verizon leading the way in making it accessible to consumers.
5G Ultra Wideband runs on a much higher frequency than the 4G smartphones many of us use. 5G will provide unprecedented speeds, which is always welcome, but Verizon is going to great lengths to strengthen their current network by installing an additional 37.2 million miles of fiber optic cable and continuing to “densify” their system, adding many, many more small cell sites in high traffic areas.
All this will create a far more robust infrastructure along with the capabilities of 5G and allow for quicker access to emergency services, the ability to withstand greater demands from millions of devices, provide up-to-date information tracking and lightning-fast downloads of vital documents.
Effective emergency response requires a high level of coordination between groups as diverse as animal rescue, American Red Cross, National Guard, utility companies, and churches. 5G provides fast and powerful technology so coordinated efforts happen smoothly and swiftly.
Our community came together in an amazing and impressive way during the weeks and months that followed Hurricane Harvey. We learned to appreciate each other, bless our first responders, and hug those who took time off from work and volunteered with our recovery. Someday another hurricane will come our way, but next time we’ll be fortified by what we learned this time around, along with advanced 5G to provide the powerful technology required to maintain the flow of information and communication during the worst of times.
5G is slowly being rolled out across the US, check on your 5G Ultra Wideband availability here.
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