We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,259 News Articles

Tornado emergency crews 'delayed by mobiles'

Network volume spike causes jam, frustration

Emergency crews responding to the deadly tornado in Alabama on 1 March were frustrated by a jammed mobile phone link in the immediate area, but were slow to switch to an interoperable $18m emergency communications system instead, officials have said.

"People were frustrated, but all they had to do was turn on their radios," said Alabama's homeland security director, Jim Walker, in comments to a reporter that were confirmed by his spokeswoman yesterday.

The reason emergency crews used the mobile network from Southern LINC Wireless was that they were accustomed to using it for day-to-day communications and had fallen into a habit of doing so, officials said.

Southern LINC Wireless confirmed that a mobile phone tower in the Coffee County area near the tornado experienced increased volume, but a spokeswoman said the network was not overwhelmed, contrary to a comment by one company official. She said additional capacity was added immediately after the storm. Increased volumes on mobile phone links often result in inability to complete all calls.

In all, nine people were killed in the storm, which levelled a town's high school and other buildings.

In 2004, Alabama's Department of Homeland Security used $18m in a federal grant to buy equipment to provide interoperability between different radio systems used by various emergency response agencies, officials said.

Slowness in communication after the storm was linked to a higher level of frustration, but not to any loss of life, officials said.


IDG UK Sites

How to get free Office 2016 today: Download the new Microsoft Office 2016 Public Preview - how to...

IDG UK Sites

Why Scottish Tablet is better than the iPad mini

IDG UK Sites

How to develop for Microsoft's HoloLens

IDG UK Sites

Apple MacBook 1.1 GHz review (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015): The future of Apple laptops