California infrastructure

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A couple of stories. First, the Los Angeles Times:

California suffered widespread cellphone outages during fires. A big earthquake would be much worse
When Ted Atz, a 75-year-old retiree in Marin County, learned that his power would go out during the Kincade fire, he texted his loved ones that he might lose cell service.

He was right. For four long days, Atz couldn’t make or receive calls. He’d drive around his hometown of San Anselmo, hoping to find better reception. He had no luck and was frustrated by the knowledge that if he suffered some kind of medical or other emergency, he couldn’t reach 911.

“I would have liked to let family know that I was OK,” Atz said.

Most cell sites have about three days of backup power - after that? Pffffttttt... Seems in Ted's case, the local site did not even have that. (cough... amateur radio... cough...)

This from Glen Reynolds - Law Professor and Instapundit:

Working With the System
We worry about terrorists, and rightly. But even without terrorists, things go wrong. SARS brought a major chunk of the global economy, and global transport network to a halt. The Great Blackout left 50 million without power for reasons still not entirely clear. The heat wave in France produced over 10,000 deaths. And the former Soviet Republic of Georgia suffered its own blackout, affecting millions -- though that one, like the great blackout in Memphis earlier this summer that left over a million people without power, some for weeks, got less attention because media people weren't affected directly.

And the meat of the matter:

But it's clear that this stuff matters. In particular, the cell-phone industry has dropped the ball. The cellphone network isn't just a luxury for rich guys and soccer moms anymore: it's a vital part of emergency infrastructure.

Unfortunately, according to an article in Newsday, it isn't up to the job:

Less than two years after the cellular network faltered following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the cellular system -- which the wireless industry promotes as a safety net during emergencies -- choked again.

The system broke down as a flood of nervous callers overloaded the network for some carriers; there wasn't enough capacity to handle the excess calls. Complicating matters, many cellular sites, which depend on electricity, had inadequate backup power.

Cell-phone carriers say the electrical outage was an event they couldn't possibly foresee.

I don't think that's much of an excuse, and I think that cell-phone technology is mature enough that it's fair to start expecting the kind of robust reliability that we've seen from landline services. This is too important to ignore.

And this from Glen at Instapundit:

SOME KATRINA LESSONS:
We’re going to see a plethora of commissions and inquiries (most about as useful and non-partisan as the 9/11 Commission), but here are a few lessons that seem solid enough to go with now:

1. Don’t build your city below sea level: If you do, sooner or later it will flood. Better levees, pumps, etc. will put that day off, but not prevent it.

2. Order evacuations early: You hate to have false alarms, but as Brendan Loy noted earlier, even 48 hours in advance is really too late if you want to get everyone out.

3. Have — and use — a plan for evacuating people who can’t get out on their own: New Orleans apparently had a plan, but didn’t use it. All those flooded buses could have gotten people out. Except that there would have had to have been somewhere to take them, so:

4. Have an emergency relocation plan: Cities should have designated places, far enough away to be safe, but close enough to be accessible, to evacuate people to. Of course, this takes coordination, so:

5. Make critical infrastructure survivable: I think that one of the key failures was the collapse of the New Orleans Police Department’s radio system. Here’s the story on why:

Infrastructure needs to be robust and bomb-proof. I will be running the Camano Island node of the weekly state-wide emergency net this coming Tuesday (I do it once/month; the net is every week) Even if. ESPECIALLY IF there is no emergency. Practice, practice, practice.

That way, when the shit does hit the fan, our actions will be second nature.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on November 21, 2019 8:35 PM.

Fun meeting - amateur radio was the previous entry in this blog.

A popular candidate - Patrick Deval is the next entry in this blog.

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