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Cell companies should broaden bandwidth

One of the most important things in a large-scale emergency situation is for emergency personnel to be able to communicate with one another. Without that ability, the various local agencies would not be able to coordinate relief efforts, leading to possible loss of life. After Hurricane Katrina, the state government invested in a radio system, the Mississippi Wireless Information Network, to allow emergency personnel to be able to stay in touch should cell service be lost. However, these radios are large and bulky, and only emergency responders have access to them.

Emergency Management Agency director Danny Manley said during the May 24 EMA preparedness meeting that certain cell carriers have a special first responder plan to allow emergency personnel priority access to cell tower signals. This would mean that in case of a system overload, first responders under the plan would be able to access cell tower frequencies before the average citizen.

While this seems like a good system, Manley mentioned that it is a relatively new technology and that the plan will not work on regular cellphones. Because of this, first responders who want to take advantage of the plan would have to buy a separate, bulkier phone for use in case of an emergency.

Having access to a proper communications system is of utmost priority in the case of a disaster.

Without the ability for emergency agencies to keep in touch with each other through cellphones, first responders and other emergency personnel would have to rely on radios to stay in touch in case of an emergency. Cell companies should continue to develop the priority first responder system to perfect it and make it available on any type of device.