Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Poor cellphone coverage around Öræfajökull volcano makes it hard to deliver emergency alerts

By Staff

  • Öræfajökull glacier The tallest and second deadliest volcano in Iceland lies hidden beneath the southernmost part of Vatnajökull glacier. Photo/Craig Trotto

Residents in Öræfi, the region around Öræfajökull glacier, which hides Öræfajökull volcano which has been showing signs of waking to life in recent weeks, have voiced concerns that spotty cellphone coverage in the area makes it hard to deliver emergency alerts to people in the case of an eruption in the volcano. In the case of an emergency residents and travellers in the area will be notified by text messages sent to all cellphones in the vicinity of the volcano. Authorities estimate that 2,000 are in the area at any time.

Numerous "dead spots"
The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency and the Meteorological Office held a townhall meeting yesterday evening with the residents of Öræfi to discuss the situation in Öræfajökull. Poor cellphone coverage was one of the issues raised at the meeting. 

Read more: Uncertainty phase still in effect for Öræfajökull volcano

Residents who spoke with the National Broadcasting Service RÚV complained that there are a number dead spots, where coverage drops to zero. This includes several farms, and the rural population worries that cellphones can't pick up signals indoors. "In the bedroom, for example. People sleep indoors, where the signal is very weak," one resident told RÚV.

Notifying travellers a challenge
The spotty cellphone coverage can also pose problems when it comes to notifying tourists who might be in the area. Two of Iceland's most popular destinations, Skaftafell visitor center in Vatnajökull National Park and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon are inside the area which could be affected by an eruption in Öræfajökull glacier.  

An employee of Vatnajökull National Park pointed out that poor cellphone coverage was also an issue when it came to alerting any travellers in the area. "It's critical we are able to get messages to visitors where they are, and they aren't necessarily all down on the Ring Road. They are hiking in remote areas, following footpaths up the hills. This is something we must look into."

Travellers in Öræfi should pay close attention to emergency messages from the Civil Protection Agency and familiarize themselves with the Emergency Evacuation Plan.

Read more: Emergency evacuation plan in case of eruption in Öræfajökull glacier


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