The traditional telephone system has several well-known difficulties
dealing with wide-spread emergencies. However, traditional reliability
numbers don't tell the whole story. Emergency planners need to be
careful when hearing that the telephone system is 99.999% reliable.
The quoted figures exclude performance during periods of extreme stress.
While other technologies may appear to have less reliability, you need
to look at performance at the limits of the curve. Other technologies
may have better performance characteristics at the extreme limits.
Likewise, you need to be careful about applying solutions developed for
the telephone system to other types of networks.
While fiber optic technology proved invaluable, other technology fell
The cellular telephones that controllers had come to rely on were useless
after the earthquake, and land lines were jammed. The walkie- talkies they
had kept after converting to cell phones were few and old.
"We discovered that reverting back to basic two-way radios was what we
really needed," Mr. Owen said. "If there is a next time, we'll have better
two-way radio communications."