An agency official said staffers at the Federal Communications Commission were returning to work Tuesday afternoon after the 5.9 earthquake hit about 80 miles away in central Virginia, though they were also being given the option of taking administrative leave for the rest of the day.
The official said that there had not been an official evacuation following the quake, but folks had exited on their own. "We conducted a visual evaluation of the stress points in the building," he said, but found no damage.
There were some reports of commercial voice network outages, he said, but was checking into the status of those at press time. One issue the FCC has cited in seeking more spectrum for wireless is possible service overloads during natural disasters or other emergencies.
The Public Safety Alliance, which has been pushing for FCC and congressional action on a national, interoperable public safety communications network, said the quake had left public safety officials to communicate by short wave radio and many cell phone users unable to reach loved ones by wireless devices.
"The events of [Tuesday] once again prove public safety's need for dedicated spectrum and illustrate one way the public would directly benefit: better cell service during a crisis," said a spokesperson for the group.
The trade group for wireless carriers said infrastructure was not damaged, but that call volume was an issue.
"The industry's infrastructure appears to be intact," said CTIA: The Wireless Industry, in a statement, "but because many wireless consumers are using the networks, we are experiencing higher than normal traffic. In these high volume instances, there can be delays. We encourage people to send text messages and emails to contact their loved ones until volume returns to normal."
Meanwhile, broadcasters, who argue spectrum in their hands means it remains with the "first informers" in emergencies, pointed to the U.S. Geological Survey alert on the quake and its advice to citizens to stay indoors, under a desk, table, bed or door frame, and to "stay tuned to radio and TV news updates. "