Technology advances are constant and ever changing. In fact it is difficult to keep up with all the new versions, upgrades and developments as they roll onto the market, usually when we’ve just figured out the last device we’ve purchased. It seems at times a degree in IT would be useful in order to operate our smart phones. With the majority of the population carrying a cell phone these days, we’ve been lured into believing we are always connected and have developed a false sense of security along with a true sense of dependency on the phones. More and more our city and municipal governments have changed from the tried and true pagers of the past to cell phones for employees. The question we should be asking ourselves about this switch is, “Is that really the best choice?”
The use of pagers began back in the 1950s and proved to be a very reliable form of communication, especially for those industries who were involved in emergency situations such as: doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, EMTs and other first responders. Just as cell phone technology has advanced, so has pager technology. Pagers are still available in the one-way version, but are also available in a two-way version which is equivalent to texting on a cell phone, one of the most common uses of cell phones today. Pagers now also have internet and email capabilities. In spite of these similarities with cell phones, the biggest differences and advantages of the pager over a cell phone, still remains to be the reliability, coverage, cost and functionality.
Pagers operate on regular alkaline batteries. The battery life in a pager can run from several months up to a year. A cell phone, particularly the newest smart phones, have a short battery life from a few hours to maybe a full day if very few applications are running. In an emergency where there is no access to electricity or ability to charge a cell phone the reality of the phone being able to provide any type of assistance or security is nil. The pager on the other hand, is dependable and will not need charging or electricity to function.
The other issue many cell phone users face is the reliability of receiving a signal. Without a signal the cell phone is about as useful as a Walkman in an emergency. There might be some music on the MP3 to listen to while the battery lasts, but forget about being able to get in touch with someone to provide help. The pager doesn’t have the same reception issues as cell phones because pagers function much differently. The pager operates off a radio signal which has higher power and larger coverage area of up to 60 miles, in comparison the network signal for cell phones is typically only 10 miles. With such a small coverage area, cell phones literally compete for their signals from their sporadically placed towers to make a cell phone function, that’s the reason there are dropped calls, lack of coverage especially in rural areas or inside buildings, and overloading of networks. Pagers are not subject to these faulty reception issues and will work in areas where cell phones are dead.
Cost is another important difference between cell phones and pagers. How much did your last cell phone bill run? The answer probably depends on the minutes used, features for the phone, the plan, how many text messages were sent and a variety of other complicated costs that go into comprising that long, detailed billing record. Pagers, on the other hand, cost much less for the equipment itself and there is no way for employees to abuse minutes, text messages or downloads. It is estimated that employees regularly waste an average of one hour a day on personal calls and another hour with personal internet usage time. With pagers this simply can’t happen, costs are set and known each month and this is a huge benefit to any business or government who has to trim costs especially in this tenuous economic environment everyone is struggling through. The question employers should be asking themselves is, how many employees really need cell phones for their jobs? This is something every company and government agency needs to analyze and evaluate. In most situations, pagers will be just as effective and definitely more economical and certainly less intrusive in a work environment.
Natural disasters and acts of terrorism have never been more in the news then the past several years. The public has watched with tears in their eyes as public officials, first responders and emergency personnel struggle with communication issues and chaos on the scenes. The real issues are apparent as these people are unable to communicate through cell phones, through internet which also becomes obsolete when electricity and connectivity are compromised, and even two-way radios that are non-compatible as every group maintains channel integrity on a normal basis of operation. Pagers are again the solution for all of these communication nightmares as they were designed to disseminate information to the masses at one time. In the case of a downed tower, a temporary tower can be erected quickly, easily and literally in the back of a truck with a gas generator. This is not the case with a cell phone tower.
There are many reasons pagers have existed and been used by individuals who depend on them in life and death situations for more than fifty years. Pagers can be easily carried, will function in the worst of situations whether natural or man-made, will get critical information to the people who need it most and won’t break the bank in doing so. Pagers will work when you need them to work and can provide the type of benefits that serve its user time and time again in a very functional and necessary way. Maybe pagers aren’t the sexiest technological toy on the market today, but should employees be on the job playing with their smart phones, or working and doing their job efficiently, effectively and economically? That is the real question! And we all know the real answer!