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Shark Attack Sparks Calls for Better Cellphone Service on Cape Cod

Last month's shark attack on Cape Cod has some calling for change when it comes to cell service on the beach. It has officials now looking into how to improve public safety without ruining the unplugged beach escape many find appealing.

Phone reception is spotty at best along many beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore, including Longnook Beach in Truro, Massachusetts, where a New York man was bitten by a shark in August.

The absence of lifeguards at that beach had beachgoers hiking up the dunes to call for help. Some witnesses even drove a mile down the road to try and get a call out.

Police said the first emergency call to come through was from the parking lot up top at Longnook. A combined effort of beachgoers with medical experience and rescuers were ultimately able to save the victim, but many wonder if something can be done to make the call for help less difficult in the future.

Town manager Rae Ann Palmer said she understands the call for better cell service, but finding the answer will not be easy.

"They're beautiful, pristine settings," Palmer said. "I don't think anybody really wants to see a cell tower in the middle of the seashore."

Palmer said the town is looking into all of the options, including drones and hiring more lifeguards. She said staffing can be difficult when the work is seasonal and the price of housing is high.

The town does have parking attendants who use radios to communicate. When they are not on the clock, an emergency call box is another idea the Truro Select Board is considering. They are also hoping to put the pressure on carriers for better coverage.

"We know that time is critical to that person’s chance of getting help and survival," said Bob Weinstein, chairman of the board of selectmen. "It's absolutely necessary, so I think we have to entertain all options."

Any solution will have to wait until the season is over, as the board is not going to start discussing the topic until their budget meetings in October.

Those swimming at Longnook Wednesday said they just hope whatever call the town makes does not come at a cost of finding peace on this beach.

"We love the quietness," beachgoer Helen Perron said. "Being off the grid is part of the whole appeal of this place."

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