News coming out of the Florida panhandle highlights how important communications are in responding to disasters and how fragile some of the communication systems we take for granted can be in the face of widespread destruction.
Florida’s Governor Rick Scott said “One of the most frustrating problems is telecommunications,… the region’s communication systems, which at times have been in a near-total blackout since the storm hit, have “got to get up because many people don’t know where food and water” distribution sites are”….“Now, after clearing the roads, communications are the first priority and power. We have an unbelievable problem in Bay County — Verizon is down and AT&T is up, but the county services are on Verizon. In other places, Verizon is up and AT&T is down.” wp
The widespread outages affected a large area and have been service restoration has been slow.
“A week after the storm made landfall, nearly half—47% as of 11 a.m. on Thursday—of cell sites in Bay County, Fla., remained out of service, according to the FCC. That is a slower recovery than many recent major storms other than Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last year and left many residents without cellphone service for months.” Wjs
Verizon has blamed the slow response to a large amount of fiber and equipment damage and the ongoing issues of additional damage as emergency responders’ clear debris with heavy equipment doing additional damage to temporary fiber laid to restore services.
The problems highlight issues that the Puget Sound area would probably suffer in the event of an earthquake or other disaster that causes region-wide damage. As we come to rely on cellular and data services for more and more communications, we also need to plan for disruption of those services and the possibility of the disruption lasting for days or weeks. Alternate means of communications such as satellite phones and radio systems that do not rely on a local infrastructure may play a critical function in the initial days of a disaster until vendors and government can work to restore critical communication systems.
“As Hurricane Michael recovery begins, telecommunications, electrical power still an issue in Florida Panhandle”
By Patricia Sullivan October 14, 2018 The Washington Post
“Signal Search: Cellphone Service After Major Hurricanes”
By Sarah Krouse Oct. 18, 2018 Wall Street Journal
“Verizon Fiber Suffered “Unprecedented” Damage From Hurricane Michael”
By JON BRODKIN 10/15/2018 ARS Technica