Over Reliance Can Get You Killed…

Over reliance on both the government and technology can get you killed.  Why would I combine the two, well fearless leader has an over reliance on technology which he then passed onto his drones in the middle of a disaster area.

When President Barack Obama urged Americans under siege from Hurricane Sandy to stay inside and keep watch on ready.gov for the latest, he left out something pretty important — where to turn if the electricity goes out.

Despite the heightened expectation of widespread power and cable television failures, everyone from the president to local newscasters seem to expect the public to rely entirely on the Internet and their TVs for vital news and instructions.

Because complex interconnected systems are reliable when operating out of the their normal range of operation?  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that social media and the internet isn’t a tool worthy of use or note.  What I am saying is it is not the only tool in the tool box.  Seriously, if you’re power goes out, the only internet connection you’d have left is your smart phone.  Smart phone batteries don’t last forever, especially after you take an update from Google and removes battery saving features, I digress.

The point is  about the most reliable form of emergency communication is radio.  Period, full stop, end of discussion.  AM Radios can be built that do not require extensive antennas or even batteries.  I have handheld HAM radios that no only work on the HAM bands but can also receive shortwave radio sent from thousands of miles away.

That’s the thing about radio, it can be broadcast from outside the disaster area.  All you need within the disaster area is a capable receiver, which most are small compact, and some are even battery free.  Take these for example that I found on Amazon* (not visible in RSS).

Reliance on cellphones, while you can certainly get  hand crank chargers doesn’t mean your cell towers will stay in operation.  Cellular signals are on a shorter wavelength and will not travel as far.  Now most cellular sites have 72 hours of emergency power, but this also assumes their back haul remains active and intact.

I find it unbelievable how over reliant people are on technology to protect them and save them.  Yes it can help you survive, but just like a firearm it isn’t some magic talisman that will save you.  You need to understand how it works so you know it’s limitations.  You need to be familiar with how it can fail so you know what you need to do for plan B or C.

Yes you may not be able to communicate out for help but I have some bad news on the cell phone front during a disaster.  It will probably fail, like it has done in NYC.  Even if you have signal it probably wont work.  For example during the Nisqually Quake in 2001 communications throughout the Puget Sound went down, even emergency dispatch centers lost their primary radios.  Cell phones for the most part were dead, mainly because they were jammed with people trying to communicate in the area.    I got lucky and was able to make a connection to a location 300 miles away, local calls I got nothing.

The key is this, do not count on anything that requires established infrastructure in an emergency.  You could easily lose radio towers however, temporary antennas are easily set up to replace them.  This again was proven during the Nisqually Quake when emergency HAM nets were activated and operationally moving traffic throughout the Puget Sound in under 30 minutes after the quake.

So, have a plan, plan on that plan failing.  No plan survives first contact with the enemy.  Being able to communicate out is a very nice tool to have, but for most instances you just need to be able to hear and receive traffic.

*This is not an endorsement of these products, I have not used them.

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5 Responses to Over Reliance Can Get You Killed…

  1. Jake says:

    Heck, it doesn’t even take a wide scale disaster to knock out the cell network. On April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, VA, most people even EMS crews – couldn’t get cell calls to go through because the networks were overloaded.

    • Barron says:

      Yup, they design tower capabilities with general usage in mind. Emergency situations, man made or act of god, both result in “out of band” conditions. In which case, expect it to fail.

  2. Old NFO says:

    Good points all, and ‘sometimes’ text will get out even when phone calls don’t.

    • Barron says:

      True, but you still need the trunk at the cell tower to be alive. If it’s in anyway been cut off, you’re boned.

      • Jake says:

        This. For another local example, when the derecho blew through our area a few months ago, several towers lost power. They had backup generators, but after about a day they ran out of fuel – they apparently weren’t meant as long-term backup – and the trees that had blown down across the access roads meant that no one could get to them with more fuel for a day or two. The widespread nature of the damage made things worse by overloading the functional towers, and meant that for several days even texting was unreliable.

        It was mostly Verizon that got hit that way, for some reason.