Berks County first responders struggle with communication in the wake of Sandy

Posted: 11:17 PM EDT Nov 01, 2012   Updated: 12:12 PM EDT Nov 02, 2012
Cabela's fire

The aftermath of Sandy has some first responders in Berks County on edge.

Smoke from a faulty heating and air conditioning unit caused an evacuation at Cabela's near Hamburg early Thursday morning. For some firefighters, a vital tool was not working:  their cell phones.

"I worry that we're going to miss something. We're not going to get all the information that we need," said Chief Troy Hatt, Hamburg Fire Co.

Since Hurricane Sandy, firefighters at the Hamburg Fire Company, including the chief, have been struggling with on-and-off cell phone service. Some text messages are being received even hours after they were sent.

Hatt said he is concerned for residents.

"Hopefully, the emergency service on their phone will actually work, but if not, how are they even going to call for help," said Hatt.

Federal regulators said about 20 percent of cell phone towers all the way from Massachusetts down to Virginia are currently without power, and they also said it could be getting worse in some areas.

Dennis Groff said he desperately needs cell phone coverage to check up on his mother, who suffers from dementia.

"When the phone ain't working, you can't reach people you need to," said Groff.

For Kerri Gasbarri, who delivers pizzas, she said just completing her job now has an added level of frustration.

"I can't make outgoing calls. And I'll have service, it will say I have full service, and then all of a sudden it will just drop," said Gasbarri.

As crews up and down the East Coast race to restore power to cell phone towers, folks in Berks County said they will be on alert.