September 06, 2005, 11:21 PM — The tragic and almost unbelievable events in the Gulf States brought a flurry of phone calls last week, some from the press and some from clients, but all on how to use wireless to deal with a disaster of epic proportions. Wireless clearly plays a big role in disaster recovery operations, from the mobile two-way radios that have been a staple of wireless for perhaps 60 years now, to emergency-response equipment designed to get mobile services back on the air. The most notable example here is the "Cellular on Wheels" or "COW", a self-contained cellular base station that can be rolled in and set up in a short period of time. With so many base stations presumably damaged, under water, or otherwise out of commission in the South, COWs in that part of the world will quite literally be lifesavers. Suffice it to say that the mobile operators have been working diligently to get back on the air throughout the affected areas, and much service has already been at least partially restored as I write this.
But while some questions had to do with what the cellular and related operators could do, and what other wireless facilities might be affected or of benefit, a lot of questions were about what we as users (and particularly enterprise users) should be doing to minimize the impact if any of us are ever faced with such a calamity. It would be impossible here to present a comprehensive list, of course, and the basics like storing water and having a hand-cranked emergency radio go without saying, but here are a few key points specifically relating to wireless (which is, after all, the topic of this column):