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In case of emergency, don’t rely on SMS notification

Last year, when a bridge collapsed in Minnesota, officials advised citizens to use SMS in case of emergency, since it puts less strain on the network. It means more data can get through, which means more people stay in contact with friends and family in a time of crisis. However, according to a recent study, you should not rely on emergency communications from third parties. Not only are systems unable to deliver a large volume of messages quickly, but such a volume might become troublesome for other voice and SMS traffic on the network.


”SMS is touted as being able to deliver critical information during disaster events, and such services have been purchased by universities and municipalities hoping to protect the general public,” stated Patrick Traynor, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology. ”Unfortunately, such systems typically will not work as advertised.”

Traynor even cites the Obama SMS campaign, in which he announced Joe Biden as his running mate.

”As reported by the media, we had a reasonably good demonstration of wide-scale text messaging efforts by the Obama campaign recently,” Traynor stated. ”However, even though the population participating in this campaign announcement was not necessarily as dense as a major disaster messaging effort, there were still significant message delivery issues reported similar to the ones described in my research paper.”

My question: What does this mean for the FCC? Earlier this year, they approved an emergency text message initiative.

One Response

  1. Pieter de Villiers Says

    Mr Traynor, I respectfully disagree with your statements and would love to receive your research paper for comment on the matter. On the disclosure side I am CEO of Clickatell and we have successfully launched SMS emergency solution in many countries which have made a real positive impact on people’s lives. In my view there are no better medium and doing a radio broadcast where unintended listeners hear the bulletin only results in a flurry of voice calls to relatives that does indeed strain cell networks, 160 characters on Text does far less so.


    Posted on September 19th, 2008 at 10:55 am

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