Over the weekend, a plane wreck in British Columbia killed five–and could have resulted in two more deaths, if not for SMS.
Last Sunday, an amphibious plane took off from Port Hardy, B.C. but crashed about 10 minutes afterward. Five were killed but two were still alive.
One survivor managed to call a friend, who notified authorities–but who in turn were unable to call the survivor back. But while the crash victim’s phone no longer could receive voice calls, it still was capable of communicating via SMS. Thus, the survivor sent a steady of flow of texts to his friend, who could then tell authorities more details about the crash location–until they found the plane and people.
Because the area where the plane fell was so rugged and densely covered in foliage, the survivors might not have been found in time if they hadn’t texted details of their location. “With the rescue beacon destroyed in the crash, it (SMS) was very important,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Gerry Pash of the Victoria Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre. He added, “To have someone at the crash site, texting us as it’s happening, is beyond the pale.”
Over the last few years, SMS has come into its own as the communication platform of choice during emergencies. For example, when Hurricane Katrina struck, survivors could communicate with worried loved ones with texts since they didn’t take up as much precious bandwidth as phone calls.
As I noted in a previous post, SMS is slowly being integrated into public safety systems. Meanwhile the police in more than 30 U.S. metropolitan areas are encouraging the public to text in their crime tips. At mobileStorm, we too offer services for emergency officials to implement SMS alerts. As last weekend’s tragedy showed, the medium works.