The state has found a way to move telephone numbers around so it can respond faster when disaster hits. It’s part of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina that might help disaster recovery here. For example: Assume a tornado wipes out the telephone company switching office in your town. It not only wipes out your ability to call out, it also wipes out the ability of others–including relief agencies—to call in. But now the same company that arranges to switch personal telephone numbers when customers switch cell-phone companies has found a way for emergency responders to move to undamaged areas and keep their regular numbers. State homeland security coordinator Paul Fennewald says his own agency could move its number from Jefferson City to some other city and by electronically shifting its number to the undamaged local switching office, could be back in operation with its regular number. The Department of Public Safety has tested the system, which is called “porting,” and says new phone links were established a matter of minutes. Fennewald says the new system would not mean that people living in the stricken area could call out. But if they move to an undamaged community where the local phone-switching equipment is operational, they could keep their regular number so people could contact them.
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