Contingency planning - emergency communications personnel agree that wireless service providers have made impressive efforts in providing wireless services to their customers over the past twenty years. But, their primary strategies for emergency communications equipment placement were designed with normal operations in mind, not contingency planning or disaster recovery situations.
Consequently, there are very efficient "corridors" of use that are used by most wireless customers. These corridors were designed with vehicular traffic in mind, as the primary source of call activity. And even during normal operations, a certain percentage of customers have found that they can’t connect to their service, due to "dead zones", which in many cases are only several hundred yards off the highway.
In disaster situations, automotive transportation could be severely curtailed. The wireless cell sites that have been placed throughout a wireless service provider’s network could prove to be limited during a disaster situation. One concern is that during an emergency, there could be an increased need for wireless emergency communications traffic at service centers such as hospitals, police & fire departments, public utility companies, or even banks.
One is None.…Two is One...It is not uncommon to have well over one hundred wireless cell site substations all configured to use only one (1) main wireless switch. This is mainly due to economic decisions made by wireless communications providers based on their risk assessment of normal operations. The physical facilities for many main wireless communication switches are lacking in adequate security measures to assure communication for the communities that they serve.
A community needs to know that vital communications traffic will be reliable enough to assure that chains of command will be secure in disaster situations. The fragile nature of wireless networks means that it does not take an earthquake or a "global disaster" to render them useless. It could be as simple as a careless set of circumstances that causes a system disruption or it could even be the carefully crafted act of a disgruntled employee or competitor that creates havoc.
Substations or Cell Sitesare another concern. Cell sites are in permanent locations. They are designed to support transportation traffic corridors. It is our belief that all cell sites should be equipped with a backup energy generation device or multiple devices. Today all sites have battery backup that maintains the site for up to 8 hours of operation, providing the switch is still operational. But only a minority of cell sites includes generators.
Wireless traffic Cell site substations are assembled to accommodate a finite maximum number of simultaneous calls during normal operation of the network. Using calculations that have proven to be successful during normal operations within the wireless industry, service providers use a combination of strategies to arrive at a target quantity of wireless phones to sell to their customers. All service providers issue a multiple number of wireless phones of the simultaneous call capability of their aggregated cell sites to determine how many total wireless phones may be issued in the overall network.
During normal situations, this configuration works relatively well, with only minor customer annoyances when a wireless cell site is unavailable due to over-taxation of the wireless cell site that the customer is attempting to access.You should understand that in disaster situations, wireless traffic will greatly increase, resulting in an overloaded network. For example, it is a common practice for some individuals in earthquake-prone areas, during emergencies, to immediately acquire an open wireless phone connection, and maintain the connection in order to "reserve" a line of communication with one's headquarters. The result is one less wireless communications line potentially available for emergency-services personnel or key leaders in the chain of command.
More common, are non-emergency examples including temporary call-traffic overloads, which occur each year on Christmas day or other holidays in some regions of the country. This underestimated potential risk of the "organic factor" has already surfaced in embedded chip systems resulting in network failures that quickly turned functional systems into non-functional systems.