IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Officials are concerned cellphone communications could be obstructed when massive crowds of people flock to eastern Idaho to witness the upcoming eclipse.

The eclipse coming in August is expected to bring up to 500,000 people to the area, the Post Register reported (http://bit.ly/2rQoe3n ). Emergency managers have been working to develop plans to deal with outages, as well as the host of other situations that could arise with such a large influx of visitors.

“You’re looking at something really big, so cell towers are going to be jammed,” said Andi Anderson, manager of the Bonneville County Dispatch Center.

In 2013, authorities experienced communication issues when somebody drowned in the Snake River during the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, where about 50,000 people were gathered.

Emergency responders have radios that aren’t tied to cell coverage, and they are even working to use ham radios as a backup.

“For emergency responders, we are building a communication plan for our region,” Idaho Falls Fire Chief Hanneman said. “We are aware of the potential for cellphone coverage going out. What we’ve been told is especially during the totality part, if people try video streaming it will probably shut the system down.”

Multi-county exercises are planned for next month, where emergency responders will test their ability to handle a variety of scenarios, including situations where communication is impaired, Hanneman said.

Representatives of AT&T said they’re working on putting more infrastructure in place ahead of the eclipse, including a mobile cell tower referred to as a Cell on Wheels, COW for short.


Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com

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