photo by flickr user HAM guy
While we're not expecting interruptions in phone and cell service due to Hurricane Irene, if a future storm knocks them out, you can always rely on local ham radio operators to assist emergency management officials.
It's not a topic you hear much about any more with wireless technology expanding by the minute, but, as reported by WBTW, improvements in ham, or amateur, radio equipment have enabled operators to steal the show in the event that technology fails us during an emergency. Because of them, airwaves are opened to officials at shelters, emergency operation centers, and the state emergency management office, allowing them to communicate without land line or cell phones. Despite a decreasing number of amateur radio operators, their effectiveness has increased due to a new computer terminal "packet" system that requires less manpower to respond to incoming requests. As mentioned in the WBTW report, Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster, these radio operators are "vital" to maintaining communication.
Here is more information about ham radio and how it works. If you're an operator, or interested in getting started, and want to connect with others in the area, here is a link to the Grand Strand Amateur Radio Club.