Think about how much life has changed since Hurricane Andrew, some 24 years ago. We likely had that wall phone in the kitchen with the really, really, really long cord. We got most of our news from television, radio or newspapers. The web was something Spiderman produced as he battled villains.
Imagine if we had today's technology back then. We could text, Snap, Tweet, Facebook-message, Instagram, etc...all of our loved ones instantly how we were dealing with the post storm damage and stress. We could jump on the utilities apps to see all we need to know about when we might get power back. There are probably apps that let us know which gas station has fuel, which stores have bread and milk or the closest emergency center for aid of any kind.
Wait, no, we probably couldn't do all those things because today's technology is dependent on energy and WiFi. And after a storm like Andrew, we would likely be out of both. So, we might have to go into the attic and pull out the old wall unit after all.
Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald recently wrote about this strange phenomenon and shared her ideas on how to communicate if another big storm comes through.
WLRN: I use my phone as an alarm, as a radio and my source of news oftentimes. Looking at my checklist, I'm not prepared. Do you think people are ready for another storm?
Whitefield: Well, we may not be prepared. We have all these technological advances. There are all these apps out there that help you deal with natural disasters, weather, lots of information, but you're not necessarily going to be getting those if the power goes out and inevitably it does during a storm.
The telephone companies such as Verizon and AT&T say that their towers and their systems are able to withstand quite a bit of wind damage and storm damage. But are they confident their systems can withstand an Andrew?
I think with each storm and each natural disaster they learn a little bit more. They will move their personnel and their equipment into an area that they think is going to get slammed and they've got these mobile cell phone units. But of course these things can't move into an area until after the debris is cleared. And so they have a lot more capacity, they are a lot more robust than they were 10 years ago when the last major hurricane hit Florida, but it's kind of an unknown about how they will be able to perform it...if a major hurricane hits.
What did you take away from researching and writing this story and has it changed anything in the way you view what you have to do to get ready?
I think I may go out and buy some battery packs and these are relatively inexpensive. You can probably get one for $20-$25 but you can plug your cell phone in there, you could maybe plug your laptop, a fan, some lights, unless you are really able to splurge for a generator, but you want to have power. And even the ability of news organizations dependent on power, dependent on the Internet to get their message out there, could be challenged as well.
I remember specifically with Andrew and we were trying to call our families everywhere else to let them know what was going on. And I know my mom was going days trying to get through trying to get through. Did they [phone companies] learn anything from the experiences after Andrew?
What they recommend, because they really don't want to jam up the phone lines and the cell networks, is well in advance of a storm designate a friend or someone in your family as your central contact point. Try to get in touch with that person and that person try to get in touch with everyone else after a storm, like your information central. So instead of calling 10 friends and family members you're making that one call. I think that obviously could help quite a bit. You cannot go on your your cell phone during a storm for entertainment or to play games. It's basically for an emergency, that and you're likely to get denial of service .
One thing that has changed a lot, about 47 percent of American households are cell-phone-only households. I do have a landline at my house and I keep it specifically for this reason, but I have wireless phones. They will not work because they're dependent on electricity, so I keep an old style telephone and I pull it out whenever the weather is bad