When something like the North Complex Fire breaks out in California, authorities assume that they are going to notify people via all kinds of modern communications. But there is a problem with that assumption. Power outages hamper evacuation warnings and distance learning in wildfire-torn California
PG&E turned out the power to keep power lines from starting even more fires. And in some of these areas, cellphone coverage isn’t too good. And internet goes away without electric power. Even if you have a generator, chances are your ISP’s entire network doesn’t have redundant power. And you wondered why the old copper telephone lines had their own power source.
Mays scoured the Butte County Sheriff and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) websites as best she could with her limited reception. “It was two hours past the evacuation order before I could even see the [evacuation] map on my phone,” Mays told NBC News.
Now it seems like she got out Okay, but in the case of the Camp Fire, two years ago, waiting two hours would have been a death sentence. Probably.
Now most of the cellphone towers around me have diesel backup generators, well, some of them do anyway, but they probably only have 3 or 4 days of diesel. Natural gas not being available. Where I am sitting right now, I often can’t make or recieve a cellphone call, and I don’t try to surf the web via 3G, because I finally have decent internet service at this location. One of the reasons that I have an old-style phone, not real-old-style, is to be sure that I can dial 911 in an emergency. The county recently announced that it can accept text messages to 911, though they prefer that you call. (They’re not QUITE ready for 1997.)
The moral of the story is, don’t rely on other people to make decisions for you, especially when
- Your life may depend on the actions you take, or don’t take, and
- You can’t reach those people to know what they are telling you anyway.