Long Island, NY- In the event of a local disaster – be it natural or man-made – residents of any given area affected need one thing above all else: information. Where to go, what to do, and anything else associated with whatever malady that has befallen their region. And with the technology available today, coupled with the rampant availability of smartphones, more and more local governments and municipalities are using that avenue to convey information to their residents in the event of a disaster. And how are they getting the phone numbers that they need to get alerts out in a time of crisis? Through the White Pages, of course, but a little bit of pre-emptive action on the part of the citizenry itself is needed to make any such alert system truly effective in a time of need.
The White Pages contain residential listings, primarily for landline telephones; most cell phone numbers are not included unless their owners opt-in. And here is where the bump in the road comes in most areas when it comes to the effectiveness of any emergency alert system that utilizes cell phone alls/messaging; if they don’t have your cell number, they can’t use that avenue to relay information to you in the event of a hurricane, flood, or other disaster. Take Florida for example- only 1.1 million out of 2.1 million households in Palm, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have landline telephones, which is a decrease of 150,000 from two years prior. AT&T reported that, over the entire state of Florida, the number of landline users dropped 22 percent in 2017; that number will likely continue to decrease as 2017 comes to a close as well.
In order to alleviate this issue fighting against local government’s ability to contact their residents in a crisis, there are a number of options, the most obvious being for residents to opt to include their cell phone numbers in their local White Pages for dissemination amongst authorities when needed on the occasion of a disaster. Typically, this is easy and quick to do, and it would allow first responders and governmental heads in your area to contact you quickly with updates and vital alerts when the time comes, either via robocalls or automated text messages; when disaster hits, time means everything, and knowing where the nearest shelter or supply depot is can mean the difference between life and death.
However, due to the public nature of the White Pages, some people might not want to have their cell phone number – which they pay for and may not have an unlimited number of minutes to use – out there for telemarketers to get a hold of, however unlikely that may be. In that case, any local government wishing to run a phone-based emergency alert system will hopefully have the wherewithal to create a phone number database that citizens can contribute their contact information to, either via a web-based portal or by calling your local Town or City Hall and speaking to a real, live person.
With the news these days awash in horrific disaster after disaster – homes destroyed from rampant floods, mass shooters running amok in public, or raging forest fires threatening surrounding areas – having an edge in the form of information can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the safety of you and your family. Therefore, making your phone number known to authorities – either through a helpful White Pages listing or by directly contacting your town of city officials – is vital. And if your local government currently doesn’t have an emergency alert system, and especially one that uses cell phone contact, it’s in your best interest to attend your next Town Hall meeting and plant the idea in their minds. These days, you never know when disaster will hit, and when it does- you need to be prepared.