Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Madrid Fault, Bandwidth And Disaster Planning

In trudging through some desk research on rural Broadband networks, I've found some interesting pieces which apply to the Southern Illinois Area.

We've just had a small earthquake here, but it serves to jog the memory (and the china) that getting ready for "a big one" requires advance planning.

A local paper, the Southeast Missourian covers one representative's issues regarding coordination of "local" states.

History does, fundamentally, repeat itself, regarding the Seattle Nisqually Quake of 2001...

At 10:55 a.m. (PST) February 28, 2001, a major earthquake occurred in the greater Puget Sound region. The earthquake registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, causing 200 injuries and more than $1 billion in property damage. The event, now officially known as the Nisqually earthquake, set the (coordination)process on the fast track in Washington State.

Immediately following the earthquake, the commercial telephone system bottlenecked.

This rendered cellular, personal communications services (PCS), paging and other private wireless services effectively useless in the affected areas. The equipment did not go down or fail—the system just became overloaded. The telephone companies restricted incoming calls from out of the earthquake zone, which further hampered the public’s already limited communication capabilities.

In sharp contrast to the pervasive loss of service to commercial telecommunications, Washington’s comprehensive public safety communications networks fared far better. Fire and law enforcement agencies using dedicated systems reported no loss of or damage to service.

The dedicated networks even permitted a clear option for public safety agencies to work around the commercial blockage using equipment that would have otherwise been ineffective. The WSDOT (Department of Transportation) radio system performed similarly without incident. Personnel could communicate between offices in Olympia and Seattle, and the system neither slowed down, as it could have under overload conditions, nor dropped any calls. Both the WSDOT and WDNR (Natural Resource) networks also continued to operate despite temporary building evacuations.

These and other experiences unquestionably demonstrated the value of dedicated public safety systems as opposed to reliance on commercial providers.

At the same time, however, the Nisqually earthquake revealed the serious shortcomings of standalone systems with little or no capacity to interoperate.

Washington State SIEC 14 October 8, 2001
Best Practices Guide

Unfortunately, more experience was gained in September 2001. The point - that there exists substantial "findings of fact" which, with peer review applied, could point the way to the rapid (not panicked) development a roadmap for inter-regional coordination.

One impression from Katrina: why do the emergency plans, emergency reach numbers, and etc. become available ONLY AFTER the event in any meaningful way?

Example: With Katrina, multiple telephone numbers to call to report ones survival and check on the status of others. Why not one telephone number? Why not one website? Why not pre-position "end of the world" supplies (within budget) at a few locations in a region and encourage inter-state sharing before, rather than after, the event? And, what should happen if the Emergency Management Agency facility (here, they resemble rugged pole barns) is itself destroyed? What's plan B?

This is not critcism of status quo, but reflects my concern of status quo. The answers are out there; is there leadership commensurate with this need?

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