under stress out in the field to respond to," he said. "Think of it as an SMS polling capability.

"You can report back to and let everybody know, 'I've accounted for all 95 of my team members out in the field.'"

He said the ability to request a receipt when the recipient receives the message can help with internal reporting and on-the-spot decision-making. It can also assist with recordkeeping, which is one of the least concerns during the immediate response but often desirable after the fact.

"Using SMS, particularly through an e-mail product, you get a receipt -- time, date stamped and for your own records, you get their responses," Foosaner said.

Once plans are in place, he recommends rigorously testing them. "Test them hard," he said, "so that you can modify and alter it if you need to rather than trying to scramble at the time."

Foosaner's team has supported more than 100 field training exercises, and he said very few organizations test their equipment to the point of failure. "You fail in training," he said, "so you succeed in the battle."

Part of that planning and testing must include as much redundancy as possible. If cell towers are completely destroyed, SMS communications won't be sent or received.

"No network is 100 percent guaranteed," Foosaner said. "Everybody designs it as best they can. Given acts of God, so to speak, disasters, earthquakes or hurricanes, you know there's only so much you can do against 200-mile-an-hour winds on a piece of antenna."

Nevertheless, Foosaner said, SMS in its simplicity has a place in emergency planning.

"It gets passed up by the more sophisticated tools coming out, but you know every tool should be thought of when you're planning for disaster preparedness, for continuity of operations and emergency response," he said. "There are going to be times when that rusty, old wrench still works, and it's going to help you out."

Emily Montandon  |  Contributing Writer