When Crisis Communications IS the Crisis – AT&T Experiences Widespread Outage

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What is your Communications back-up plan?

Joplin Tornado InfoBy Guest Contributor, Genevieve Williams, Founder Joplin Tornado Information Facebook Page

The reliability of wireless service in a disaster has become increasingly critical as more Americans ditch their landlines for cell phones. The percentage of cell phone-only households has risen from 18 percent in 2008 to 34 percent today, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

ATandTLast year, the Federal Communications Comission sought public comments on how wireless providers should strengthen their systems, citing “the inadequacy of backup power” as a key reason for wireless failures during emergencies.

A recent AT&T wireless voice and text outage exemplifies this issue, and also highlights the role of social media for news communication. Effectively run disaster recovery pages continue to play key roles in their affected communities post-disaster.

A widespread outage was experienced by AT&T on its cellular network, as it reported on its Facebook page. The outage affected customers from Texas north to Kansas City and Wichita, Kan., and east to Springfield, Mo.

JTIATTTwo hours prior to the AT&T official notice on its Facebook page however, Steve Douglas, a trusted source and member of the Joplin Tornado Info Facebook page, shared the information that AT&T wireless voice and text were down throughout the region, nearly an hour before local or regional traditional news outlets posted the information, and two hours prior to AT&T’s official announcement.

Local AT&T customers took to social media to complain about the outage, using Twitter and Facebook to express their frustration.

This outage serves to remind all to include alternative communication in disaster emergency preparedness plans, both personally and for businesses. It further serves to impart the importance that one trusted individual can have in bringing vital information to the forefront using social media.

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