Saturday, December 29, 2018

When 911 Doesn't Work

Hopefully you haven't had to call 911 in recent days; if you have, you may have not been able to get through due to a nation-wide outage.  Because of a problem at Century Link, internet service, ATMs, cell service, even the Wyoming lottery was shut down, in addition to 911 service.  Someone maybe should have considered a triple-redundant back-up system for critical infrastructure?

Sadly much of our infrastructure is barely hanging on in many areas (bridges, electrical grids, and as we have seen with this situation, internet service) which makes it a prime target for terrorists or even just a small natural disaster which could cause wide-spread issues.  We'll save the 'what to do when the entire grid goes down' post for another day, but if you come upon a situation where your internet/cell/911 service is down, here are some things to do:

  • Have a hard-wired phone line in addition to cell services (more than half of homes in the US no longer have a land line so this may not be practical).
  • Have cell service from more than one company (family plans often make cell service cheaper but if this isn't the case in your area, one person should have service from one major carrier and another family member should have service from a different major carrier).  Similarly, use separate companies for your internet and cell service.
  • Have a burner phone that you would only use in an emergency (some carriers have an annual plan with a limited number of pre-paid minutes which works great for an emergency-only phone).  Be sure this cell service uses a different carrier than you usual cell service.
  • If your area has text to 911 service, try this if you can't call out during an emergency (sometimes texts go through when calls won't).
  • If you have only cell service or only internet service, call your out-of-area emergency contact or use social media to reach out for help (often someone from outside of the outage area can call on your behalf and request help).
  • If you can't call 911, try calling the business number of your local emergency agency (fire department, sheriff's office, police department, etc).
  • You can also call for help on your HAM radio; often during a disaster, local emergency managers will ask the ARES/RACES groups in the area to monitor the local airwaves and provide assistance if possible.
  • Know where the closest emergency service agencies are located.  You should know where the closest police department/substation is located, where the nearest (manned) fire department is, where the local sheriff's office is, where the nearest hospital is, etc.  You may have to drive the person in distress to one of these places to seek help.
  • For longer-term outages, contact your local Department of Emergency Management, via social media if possible, and find out what their work-around plan is for the situation.

No comments:

Post a Comment