November 7, 2012#

Pay Phones and Twitter Shine in Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Mayor Booker responds directly to a resident of Newark.

Hurricane Sandy proved to be a devastating storm. In any emergency, communication can mean the difference between life and death. As irony would have it, both new and old communication technology has had a significant role in the relief effort.

Mayor Booker used Twitter to relay important information to the residents of Newark. For many years broadcast media has filled the role of communicating messages to the masses in emergency situation. However, the ineffectiveness of this channel is that it is one-way. On the contrary, his Twitter followers were able to tweet back information about their emergency needs. Mayor Booker personally responded to some of these tweets in need by delivering water, diapers and other items. For others, he was able to send first responders to needed areas.

When the power is out, what good will your top-of-the-line smartphone be when it runs out of juice? One hundred mile per hour winds and 13-foot storm surges: Is there an app for THAT? Well yes, kind of, but you won’t find it in your phone’s app store. You’ll find it at some obscure street corner or outside an old convenience store. The pay phone made a comeback, brief as it was, like a retired boxer coming back for one last glorious match only to be forgotten soon after.

Communication technologies will come and go but as Sandy has reminded us, the human race will continue to face the hardships that natural disasters bring. We should embrace the opportunity of today’s technology but come to appreciate the past as well.

Hurricane victims wait in line to use a pay phone. Many of them had trouble remembering how to operate them.


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