I think that T-Mobile or Verizon or some Satellite Phone provider should build a kiosk that can be dropped from a chopper or delivered by a truck that has 4 phones on it, one on each side of a post. This way, in the next emergency situation, they could deploy the phone and give people unlimited free calls on it.
All through this disaster you would hear people on TV giving instructions to survivors to "call this number and leave a message to let loved ones know you're ok", etc. You would hear these messages being sent to a community with no electricity, cell phone towers or local phone service.
How amazing a PR coup would that be if someone had dropped in 5 or 10 of these kiosks into NO? And don't tell me that FEMA won't allow it or that the frequencies would be disruptive to emergency communications. Both excuses are bullshit. CNN, FOX, NBC and everyone else got into New Orleans and used their sat phones just fine.
Don't even get me started on the fact that emergency personnel had communications problems (and still do). This was the #1 problem during 9/11 and that was 4 years ago. There is no way that an adequately funded program couldn't have come up with an emergency communication system in that kind of time.