MuniWreless.com points me to a good article at Computer World called New Wi-Fi network proves critical in Minneapolis bridge disaster.
“Thank goodness we had it in and that this piece of the network was already up and operational,” said Minneapolis City CIO Lynn Willenbring. “We could not have been as effective if it were not for that.”
The article explains how the Wi-Fi network near the disaster site helped rescuers download maps, connect webcams, and obtain other data. Another benefit was relieving cell networks from the massive increase in connections.
The use of municipal Wi-Fi networks in emergencies has been talked about for years in scenario white-board planning, he said, [Joe Caldwell, the co-founder of Minneapolis-based US Internet and CEO of USI Wireless] but “it has never really been put into play. … What we found out is that it is definitely viable and definitely makes a huge difference.”