June 10, 2005
Poor mobile phone reception could cost lives, warns hovercraft group
Concerned crewmembers at Burnham-On-Sea’s rescue hovercraft fear lives could be put at risk because of a sudden drop in mobile phone reception across the town.
An SMS pager system is used to muster shore-helpers and crew to launch the life-saving craft – but the decommissioning of a local phone transmitter in the last fortnight has meant some messages are not getting through or being delayed by crucial minutes.
Alan Miller, chairman of BARB, the group that runs Burnham-On-Sea’s rescue hovercraft, said: “The reception signal for O2 phone users has dropped so significantly across Burnham that many crew members are complaining that pages are just not getting through.”
“So far this has only meant that crewmembers have missed training exercises or turned up late – but we all know that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a real incident when the crew will need to be alerted as quickly as possible in order to launch the hovercraft.”
The concern comes after a mobile phone transmitter at Pepperall Road, Highbridge was decommissioned without advance warning being issued to local emergency services. A second transmitter some miles away from Burnham in East Brent is only providing weak signals across the town.
“Mobile phone companies should fully consider these kind of life-saving issues and notify key users such as emergency rescue groups well in advance of decommissioning,” said Mr Miller.
Response times are often a highly critical factor when dealing with mud rescue incidents – and this has been seen many times during the last year when the Spirit Of Lelaina hovercraft has helped or rescued more than 60 people along the Somerset coast.
BARB has lodged its concerns with O2 and has been told that a new replacement transmitter will be erected in the area soon.