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The 411 on Pagers
Advances in technology are constant and constantly changing. In fact, it’s hard to keep track of all the new versions, updates, and developments as they hit the market, usually when we’ve just figured out the last device we bought. It seems that sometimes an IT degree will come in handy to make our smart phones work. With the majority of the population carrying a cell phone these days, we have been led to believe that we are always connected and have developed a false sense of security with a true sense of dependence on our phones. More and more of our city and municipal governments have switched from the tried and true pagers of the past to cell phones for employees. The question we need to ask ourselves about this switch is, “Is this really the best choice?”
Pagers have been used since the 1950s and have proven to be a very reliable form of communication, especially for industries involved in emergency situations such as doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, EMTs and other first responders. As cell phone technology has evolved, so has pager technology. Pagers are still available in a one-way version, but are also available in a two-way version that is equivalent to text messaging on a cell phone, one of the most common uses of cell phones today. Pagers now also have Internet and e-mail capabilities. Despite these similarities to cell phones, the biggest differences and advantages of a pager over a cell phone remain reliability, coverage, cost, and functionality.
Pagers run on regular alkaline batteries. Battery life in a pager can last from several months to a year. A cell phone, especially the latest smart phones, has a short battery life of a few hours to maybe a full day if very few applications are running. In emergency situations where there is no access to electricity or the ability to charge a mobile phone, the phone can provide zero assistance or safety. On the other hand, a pager is reliable and does not require charging or electricity to function.
Another problem that many mobile phone users face is signal reception reliability. A cell phone without a signal is as useful as a Walkman in an emergency. Maybe there’s music on MP3s to listen to while the battery lasts, but forget about contacting someone for help. Pagers don’t have the same problem as cell phones because pagers function much differently. A pager works from a radio signal, which has higher power and a greater coverage area of up to 60 miles, while the network signal for mobile phones is usually only 10 miles. With such a small coverage area, cell phones literally compete with signals from their sporadically located towers for cell phone functionality, so there are dropped calls, lack of coverage especially in rural areas or buildings, and network congestion. Pagers are not subject to these faulty reception problems 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 cost you? The answer probably depends on minutes used, phone features, plan, how many text messages are sent, and other complex costs that go into 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 spend an average of one hour per day on personal calls and another hour on personal Internet use. With pagers this simply cannot happen, the costs are fixed and known every month and this is a huge benefit to any business or government that has to cut costs, especially in this weak economic environment that everyone is struggling with. The question employers should ask themselves is how many employees need a cell phone for work? This is something that every company and government agency should analyze and evaluate. In most situations, pagers will be just as effective and certainly more economical and certainly less intrusive in the work environment.
Natural disasters and acts of terrorism have never been in the news as much as in the past few years. The public watches with tears in their eyes as public officials, first responders and emergency personnel struggle with communication issues and chaos at the scene. The real problems are obvious as these people can’t communicate with cell phones, internet that is also out of date with power and connectivity outages and even two way radios that are incompatible as all groups maintain channel integrity on a normal basis. operation. Pagers are still the solution to all these communication nightmares as they are designed to disseminate information to the masses at once. In the event of a downed tower, a temporary tower can be quickly, easily and literally erected on the back of a truck with a gas generator. This is not the case with cell phone towers.
There are many reasons why pagers have existed and have been used by individuals who depend on them in life and death situations for over fifty years. Pagers can be easily transported, will function in the worst situations, whether natural or man-made, get critical information to the people who need it most, and won’t break the bank. Pagers will work when you need them to work and can provide the kind of benefits that serve its users from time to time in a very functional and necessary way. Pagers may not be the sexiest technology toy on the market today, but should employees be at work playing with their smartphones, or working and getting their work done effectively, efficiently and cost-effectively? This is a real question! And we all know the real answer!
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