Los Angeles earthquake chokes phone calls, not Twitter

When a 5.4 magnitude earthquake strikes and phone lines get jammed, it seems Twitter and texting may be the way to go.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
2 min read

A 5.4 earthquake hit Tuesday while Verdell Wilson was having an exam in her gynecologist's Los Angeles office.

Given it was her first earthquake experience, Wilson did what comes naturally--she twittered it.

"As soon as I got dressed, I twittered my experience from my cell phone," Wilson said. "I usually twitter to 80 friends, but I now have 274 messages from people commenting on it."

Twittering and texting may be the way to go in an emergency, given landline and cellular phone networks were heavily congested as callers jammed the lines, creating frustration for some users who had difficulty getting calls through.


"If you're on a wireless network and you can't get a call through, often the texting network won't be as congested," said John Britton, an AT&T spokesman.

He also advised users to forgo making non-emergency calls when natural disasters strike, in order to free up network resources for emergency calls.

The earthquake not only created network congestion for AT&T callers, but for Verizon customers, too.

"There were no outages, but what we did see was a big spike in calls. It was about 40 percent higher than our projections of what we might experience in a natural disaster," said Ken Muche, a Verizon spokesman.

Other tech companies, however, were more fortunate.

Security software giant Symantec, for example, was able to escape any damage to its nearby research lab in Culver City, Calif., said a company spokesman.

Despite a "good long shake," nothing fell in the facility and cell and phone services were not interrupted.