Addendum to Episode 10 of Richard’s Radio Adventures: Infrastructure

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Phone Outages 6/16/2020

Hey Kids. I am writing this about 36 hours after the release of RRA Episode 10. Today is 6/17/2020.

I felt compelled to bring a real life example of one of the topics in episode 10 especially since it occurred so soon after the release of that episode.

Less than 10 hours after I posted episode 10 on the website we started to here about one of the major phone providers having unexplained outages across the U.S. These outages went on for several hours and covered large areas mostly centered around large metropolitan areas. One of the outage areas stretched from the Texas gulf coast to northern Oklahoma. If you were using your phone as a hot spot or running an amateur radio app for APRS or something that required data you would have been out of luck.

Less than 12 hours later our local cable provider stopped providing. The signal just stopped. No internet. No TV. Nada. Since our provider is not big on there people talking to the customers we got a recorded message that said it was out and no estimate of when it might be back on. Three hours latter the TV began blaring again, it had to be Rosanne.

In episode 10 I was speaking at one point about the fact that infrastructure can and will stop working from time to time. I went on to say I didn’t think that depending on the inter net as a backbone for amateur radio communications was a great idea. I do understand that some folks prefer the convenience of linked repeaters to talk to amateur radio operators in other cities, states or countries. Some prefer to sit on the couch with a handie talkie and talk to a hot spot connected to they're computer. Different strokes for different folks I guess. I prefer the old fashioned way my self.

The thing we need to remember is that we don't have a license so we can be a bunch of buddies hanging out talking about antennas. We get to do that and that's great. We are there to communicate for those that communicate with each other when needed. That normally means the served agencies.

Communicating wind speed, rainfall estimate, etc. is difficult enough. When you have a failure with the repeater and you're driving 60 mph in the blinding rain with a tornado coming up your tailpipe and you”re trying to change frequencies on your radio its a real joy. Imagine if your working with a DMR, C4FM, D-Star radio and The link fails or the repeater fails or both and you have to move to an analog machine or simplex. That’s why one drives and one spots.

I hope this gives you something to think about. This is just part of what RRA episode 10 was about but a lot of folks don’t think twice if the infrastructure in going to be there when they need it. You don’t wonder if the street in front of your house is going to be there when you back you're car out in the morning.

surprises come when you least expect them Just remember to factor in infrastructure.

Just remember what they say “don't put all you're eggs in one basket. If you trip going in the front door the Yolk will be on you” -- Zippy Gillette


Richard KB5JBV

About the Author

Richard KB5JBV has been an Amateur radio operator since 1988. He has held positions with the America Radio Relay League including but not limited to Assistant Section Manager, Official Observer, Official Relay Station, Official Emergency Station, ARES Emergency Coordinator for Resonant Frequency: The Amateur Radio Podcast was created to help get information on amateur radio out to the new ham and the ham that wants to find out more about different aspects of the hobby they are thinking about getting into. So sit back have a drink and enjoy.

Richard KB5JBV has been an Amateur radio operator since 1988. He held positions with the America Radio Relay League including but not limited to Assistant Section Manager, Official Observer, Official Relay Station, Official Emergency Station, ARES Emergency Coordinator for Kaufman County Texas, Volunteer Examiner and Technical Specialist in the North Texas section.

Richard has also served as RACES assistant radio officer for the city of Mesquite, Tx. and among numerous other duties Including club president for the HAM Association of Mesquite Texas.

1 comment

  1. Michael D Bolton - Reply

    Which illustrates the folly of tying Amateur Radio to commercial infrastructure. We as communicators, be it independently or as part of an organization (ARES, RACES, REACT, CERT, etc), we must strive to be able to operate in less-than-ideal conditions. This means availing oneself of the skills necessary to construct and fabricate at least power- and antenna systems on-the-fly. Adapt. Be resourceful. Know your equipment.

    When I was in RACES years ago, the most-relied-upon alerting mechanism was commercial numeric, then alphanumeric pagers. These worked beautifully, and I can’t recall an instance where any kind of telephone-system outage rendered them useless. But there could have been. There were other alerting systems available, using signals transmitted over the pertinent Amateur Radio frequencies to alert emergency communicators. Some availed themselves of these, but the marjority of alerts were received via commercial pagers.

    Especially with the turmoil of late, commercial communications infrastructure (cellphone, Internet, even old-fashioned landline telephone) can be compromised, either deliberately or by system overload. It behooves one to have a means of communicating electronically to summon help or to keep in touch with friends and family. For those without or not desiring an Amateur Radio license, CB radio is still a viable choice. The shorter-range Family Radio Service (FRS) “walkie-talkies” can also work.

    In summary, our modern communications systems are great when they’re working, seemingly crippling when they aren’t. Alternate means of communicating must be kept in mind and ready to use in an emergency.

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