Mobile Phones and Crisis Response

In my studies of emergency response work performed by fire crews, it has become very clear that Mobile Phones/Cell Phones are among the most important communication technologies. Even if the fire crew is using a radio-communication system for the verbal communication within the group, the fire crew commander and incident commander are heavily using their mobile phone in order to communicate to the command center for situation reporting. The fundamental role of mobile phones in emergency response work seems to be equally important also in crisis response work where a very large network of actors becomes involved in actual response work. In an article in the (SEMA) – Swedish Emergency Management Agency’s journal “KRISBEREDSKAP” lessons learnt from storms and flooding by local communities shows that mobile phones are fundamental for communication. Lessons learnt by ‘Ljungby kommun’ are among many things that local communities should buy SIM-cards abroad in order to provide roaming in cases of disturbances in the mobile telecom network. The idea of using non-national SIM-cards is to get automatic roaming, which national purchased SIM-cards does not provide! I find this suggestion to be a heavy critique of the SEMA’s ability to get the national mobile-network operators to provide roaming in cases of crisis. When the ability to communicate and provide a common operating picture is dependent on the use of foreign SIM-cards, it manifests how slow the implementation of a crisis response infrastructure currently is progressing. The suggestion to use foreign SIM-cards does however indicate the importance of mobile-phones in crisis response work. From my point of view, the information technology always at hand or at least in-the-pocket is the mobile phone, and all actors that will become involved in crisis response work have mobile phones as part of their everyday work. Sadly, services based on this fact are currently non-existent.

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