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Division skips cell phones

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Cell phones? Who needs cell phones?

Certainly not the state Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management. It has so many other communication gizmos and gadgets that any disruption to wireless during the Winter Games would go unnoticed.

"Boy, we can communicate over here. That's one thing we're good at," said Chris Kramer, division spokesman.

In the aftermath of the 1999 tornado that ripped through Salt Lake City, emergency services workers, like everyone else, had trouble making cell calls. But now, getting connected won't be a problem in an Olympic disaster.

Satellite phones, two-way radios and text pagers are just a few of the items in the division's telecom arsenal. The division has mobile communication units that allow it to tap into telephone lines. It can pull in dial tone from Denver should the phone grid fail. It has special cards to override calls on cellular networks. It can turn to the 800 MHz radio frequency many municipal emergency services use. And ham radio operators are standing by.

"It's just astonishing the communications capabilities we have," Kramer said.

During the Games, the emergency management division intends to stick with regular land lines unless something happens, said Mike Kuehn, deputy director.

And if it does, he said "everyone will be carrying around a bag of phones, I guess."

The scenario would have to be major for the cellular priority access cards to come out. The division has never used them.

"It has to be a disaster. It has to be a huge deal," Kuehn said.

Firefighters and EMTs will use but not rely on wireless, said, Brian Garrett, Utah Olympic Public Safety Command director for fire and emergency medical services. They will talk mostly by land line. UOPSC will also use the 800 MHz radio system.

Garrett doesn't think the glut of cell phones will disrupt day-to-day public safety communications.

"I don't see it being a big problem," he said.

E-MAIL: romboy@desnews.com