In time for mothers day (for some reason we have it earlier in Europe than the USA) I posted this story about the value for society if we can help seniors go mobile. With a sharply contrasting focus this IEEE Spectrum article by Willie Jones shares the tragic news of how spotty network coverage led to the death of an elderly couple after they had an accident in an area where there was no network coverage:
“Arthur and Madeleine Morris, an elderly New York City couple whose vehicle fell down an embankment near the end of the driveway of their vacation home in New York’s Catskills region. After it became clear that the car was stuck, they made five unsuccessful attempts to call for help. Calls to 911, Madeleine’s son, and a neighbor failed to connect because of spotty cellular reception in the sparsely-populated rural area. From what investigators have been able to piece together, Arthur Morris then attempted to climb out of the vehicle, but got wedged between the bottom of the door and the ground. He soon died of asphyxiation. His wife managed to get out, but four additional attempts to use the cellphone proved fruitless. After giving up on technology, she walked to the home of their closest neighbors. Finding them already gone, and unsure of what else to do, Madeleine covered herself with a tarp to protect herself against the rain, but died of hypothermia after nighttime temperatures dipped into the forties”
It appears some commenters are criticising the network operators for their failure to build out their networks but I think it’s also important that we realise that there are things we can do to help ourselves. In my opinion top of those should be getting our loved ones using quality mobiles and using SMS, here’s why:
1) SMS can get through when calls can’t. In many instances a mobile that is picking up a signal that is too weak to make a call can still manage to send a SMS and the send receipt service and error check processes can reassure a sender that it’s been recieved/sent. Unbelievable as it may seem this tragic outcome could have been avoided with a simple SMS saying: “Dad’s run the car off the side of the road outside the rental house send someone to help ASAP”
2) SMS takes up much less battery power in comparison to a voice conversation and it can be important to preserve this in instances where you’re remote, there’s a power out, the authorities need your device powered to be able to locate you, etc.
3) SMS can enable people to connect with others in ways that can enable new care possibilities eg. in this case a simple SMS saying “I’m heading out now will be at yours by 3pm” could have helped raise that all important alarm much sooner.