08.9.20

Sunday Dispatch For August 9th, 2020 – 0x6715A74

Good morning. On this day in 1892, Thomas Edison received a patent for a two-way telegraph, and in 1944 the United States Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council released posters featuring Smokey Bear for the first time.

Our Youtube Recommendation for the week is here:

Tropical Storm Isaiah breezed through here last Tuesday, leaving a heck of a lot of damage, and a four-day grid outage in the neighborhood. The biggest take-aways from this one are:

  1. You can never have enough water, and really should have a generator big enough to run your well pump or a gravity-fed cistern as back-up water source.
  2. You can never have enough batteries.
  3. You need to be able to navigate around multiple obstacles to get home.

COMINT collection was successful overall, as many rural town public works/highway departments in the area are still running analog conventional radio systems on VHF and occasionally UHF. Surprisingly enough, the local electrical utility still uses VHF low-band, although a conventional UHF repeater system was also discovered.

One of the better sources of local information was on Facebook “town talks” group pages. Our town pages had all sorts of OSINT on road and business closures, item availability, and grid conditions.

The local power company’s website was totally useless, as the sheer number outage reports broke it. Many people reported that their neighborhood was still being listed as “evaluating outage” after power was restored.

Internet connectivity was and always will be dependent on electrical power availability. Reports showed Telco-provided ADSL lasted longer after the power outage than CATV Internet. Wireless common carrier Internet stayed up, but became overwhelmed as hardwired systems started failing. Complicating matters were issues from a network merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.

We have always said that if you want reliable comms, never trust someone else’s infrastructure. While Amateur Radio SKYWARN and ARES operations were active, disaster radio comms still remain a niche thing, especially in short term disasters where people have enough wireless common carrier connectivity to reach Facebook and make phone calls. It is what it is.

There is a saying, “If the map doesn’t match the terrain, change the map.” We can wax poetic about grid-down communications using Amateur Radio, CB, FRS, et al, but the reality showed that the future is going to be Part 15-based wireless data infrastructure since that’s what everyone has.