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#294058 - 11/05/19 09:37 PM Cell phone service and California fires
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1146
Loc: Alaska
Lots of folks are predicting that with the coming of FirstNet, the cell system will be able to handle nearly all emergency communications needs. Recent experience from wildfires in California suggests otherwise. Check out this article in the LA Times:

California suffered widespread cellphone outages during fires. A big earthquake would be much worse
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"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#294059 - 11/05/19 10:23 PM Re: Cell phone service and California fires [Re: AKSAR]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7054
Loc: southern Cal
A most thoughtful and sobering article. It fits neatly with my EQ scenario which features infrastructure disruption, hindering mobility and communication, along with interruption of gas, electrical and water services. Imagine not being able to make calls with your camera.

You won't have to go to the wilderness, the wilderness will come to you and stay awhile.
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#294063 - 11/06/19 04:23 PM Re: Cell phone service and California fires [Re: AKSAR]
Russ Offline
Geezer

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 5227
Loc: SOCAL
There’s no doubt society in general has become far too reliant on cell service; it’s always there until it’s not. Government assumes the cellular service will always be available so they push emergency communications there. Meanwhile the cellular service companies seem to have assumed the electricity would always flow, and it did until it stopped. Too many assumptions; the system was not as robust as many people assumed.

I received many updates on the fires from news on AM radio — no cell service required. Apparently only we dinosaurs are aware of this archaic communication system. ”Clear channel station” and other non-clear channel AM radio stations are ideal for getting information out. Unfortunately with people getting the bulk of their news from the internet, from instant messaging apps or from some form of text, who listens to AM radio...(besides dinosaurs)?

OT: I picked up this new pocket radio the other day after doing a web search for AM/FM radios with PLL (Phase Lock Loop) and DSP (digital signal processing), I found an unfamiliar (to me) brand, small & light enough to take on walks. A few reviews later I ordered one to see for myself.
Note: AM radios are not big clunky things filled with tubes, I have a few radios which are built around a Silicon Lab receiver on a chip, complete with PLL and DSP technology built in.

There are plenty of decent little pocket radio for <$20. PLL keeps the frequency very stable and DSP cleans up a lot of noise and interference. This new radio can scan and automatically put AM or FM stations into memory. In this case, the radio stopped counting stations at 23, as many as its little antenna could reach. A number of those stations held no interest to me so I pressed delete and removed them from memory, no point in stopping there when I step through the stations. Because it was daytime, a few additional stations didn’t show up so I entered those frequencies the old fashioned way — tuned them in and pressed the Memo key.

At night I can receive AM broadcast from Sacramento (AM 1530 KFBK @ ~450 miles), Las Vegas (AM 720 KDWN, Henderson @ ~250 miles) and Bakersfield (AM 1560 KMZR @ ~200 miles) (depending on atmospherics), that’s with a Panasonic RF-2400 which has a much bigger AM antenna. I’m not sure a pocket radio’s small antenna will ever receive distant stations without assistance from a better antenna, but these are radios anyone can buy off the shelf (Amazon/eBay or direct from the manufacturer).

Point is, AM/FM radios are inexpensive, readily available and require no monthly service fee to keep available. The AM and FM transmission systems are in place and mature. Rather than cellular, .gov should maybe refocus some of their emergency communications effort and funding to using AM/FM radio more efficiently.

But that’s just my $.02, not the $billion$ in Silicon Valley pushing 4G LTE and 5G.

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#294064 - 11/06/19 05:32 PM Re: Cell phone service and California fires [Re: AKSAR]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7054
Loc: southern Cal
We are reliant not just on cell phone service but also on the internet. When the juice stops flowing, my internet is gone and I can no longer access ETS. Withdrawal symptoms begin immediately - shakes, nausea, etc.

But these are added avenues to existing communication modes. I recently listened to a test of the emergency alert system while listening to FM radio the other day.

During the Thomas fire, we first received an emergency alert via cell phone after our electricity had died, and a few minutes later a sheriff's deputy, speaking loudly on his bullhorn, drove through the neighborhood, telling us to get out.

The more strings to your bow, the better .
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#294065 - 11/06/19 06:22 PM Re: Cell phone service and California fires [Re: AKSAR]
Roarmeister Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/01
Posts: 922
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: AKSAR
Lots of folks are predicting that with the coming of FirstNet, the cell system will be able to handle nearly all emergency communications needs. Recent experience from wildfires in California suggests otherwise. Check out this article in the LA Times:

California suffered widespread cellphone outages during fires. A big earthquake would be much worse


I guess there is nothing like a real life stress test to see how systems really operate! Weaknesses are pointed out, lessons learned, and new procedures to be developed.

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#294066 - 11/06/19 09:22 PM Re: Cell phone service and California fires [Re: AKSAR]
Phaedrus Online   content
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2422
Loc: Big Sky Country
It's not a cure-all but I'm strongly considering adding a Garmin Mini Inreach to my kit! It pairs with a smart phone to link up the Irridium satellite constellation to provide 2 way texting and SOS functions anywhere with a view of the sky.
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“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

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