What Happens to Text Message Use After an Earthquake [Graph]

On Tuesday, a major earthquake shook the East Coast, causing structural damage in some areas and bringing cell phone networks to their knees in others.

We shared our tips for communicating after an emergency. One of our tips was to use text messages to communicate because they place less strain on the network than voice calls. This advice is good to keep in mind for all emergencies and high calling time, like those that may come with Hurricane Irene this weekend.

Sybase 365, a mobile messaging and mobile commerce company, tracked SMS traffic before, during and after the East Coast Earthquake and uncovered some interesting usage statistics shown on the graphs below.

The chart shows interesting traffic jumps in both areas after an initial “What was that?” moment and the effect of network congestion. According to Sybase 365, while voice communications suffered, most text messages where able to make it through, perhaps with a slight delay.

Text Message Traffic NY and DC Earthquake

Text Message Traffic in N.Y.C. and D.C. Metro Areas After 5.8 Earthquake

The short drop in text messaging is actually longer than I would have expected, but perhaps that was lengthened by users heading to Twitter and Facebook to update their statuses first.

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In New York City, text traffic doubled within minutes and almost tripled within 20 minutes of the earthquake. Traffic in Washington D.C. jumped up to double in about 40 minutes. It was several hours before SMS usage dropped back down to what you would normally see in these areas.

Nationwide, text message use jumped up as well, after a collective,  “What was that?” moment, but did not spike as noticeably as the metro areas shown above.

text message use earthquake graph national

Text Message Traffic in Nationwide After 5.8 Earthquake

The network congestion issue is exactly why carriers and the government are working together to enable an emergency alert system for your cell phone. This system will be up and running n N.Y.C. by the end fo the year and should cover most of the nation by April 7th, 2012.

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How did your text message use change, if at all, during the earthquake? Will you be texting more this weekend as extreme weather returns to many areas.

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