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Text, don't call during times of emergency
Text messaging has become so common that some of us are annoyed when we are forced to telephone and personally talk to someone who doesn't accept texts. We're waiting for some friends to decide they'll no longer accept voice calls; only texts welcome.
It shouldn't be surprising that a texting-type technology is involved in a more sober topic, the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner, which by some accounts continued to transmit short data packets to satellites for hours after its radar transponder stopped transmitting and the plane disappeared from air traffic control radar.
The airline didn't subscribe to a Boeing service which automatically transmits technical data back to the manufacturer to be used in maintenance, but the system still periodically contacts satellites to let them know the aircraft is around.
Cell phones operate on a similar system, pinging the closest tower so they can be ready for incoming our outgoing telephone calls.
Text messages use that "ping" signal to reach their destination, which makes them a more reliable means of communication than voice calls, which require better signal strength and more bandwidth.
They also can be stored along the way, awaiting a time when the system is clear so they can be transmitted to their recipient.
Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, who is the state's Homeland Security Director, and first lady Sally Ganem are urging Nebraskans to keep that in mind when they are involved in an emergency or disaster situation.
"In an emergency, when citizens are all trying to use their phones, it can overload the system," Ganem said. "Simple message could be a saving grace for friends and loved ones letting them know that you are OK," the first lady said.
First spouses across the nation are getting involved with the "Text First. Talk Second," FEMA campaign to take the pressure off phone lines to keep them open for true emergency calls when situations arise.
"Even though our extensive communications systems are among the world's most dependable, many conditions can put a strain on these systems, which is why it is important to text in order to keep phone lines open for the most urgent emergency calls," Lt. Gov. Heidemann said.