Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Telephone alerting problems with Boulder Wildfire

Here is an article about problems with the system for calling people's phones in emergencies in the Boulder Colorado Four Mile Canyon wildfire currently ongoing. Interestingly this same issue came up a few years ago with a San Diego fire. It seems there are two basic problems: first, most people nowadays who still have landlines, have cordless phones which die immediately there is a power outage (or presumably services with internet providers which can have the same trouble); second, it seems to be difficult to keep an up-to-date database - I am not sure why this is, but it's mentioned in both articles. Of course there are particular problems with the trend to go "cellphone-only": with cellphones, people and tend to change cellphone numbers regularly and indeed the whole premise of dialling a geographic location is fuzzy.  It's hard to know what to say about this: it's probably still the most effective way of paging a group of people, and alternatives like text messaging run into all kinds of problems of their own. I guess it's back to the old mantra: no one system is perfect, and always have multiple, redundant systems. Ideally, citizens would be encouraged to submit their preferred details (phone, email, cellphone/text etc) to a local emergency management office and in an incident all methods would be used for information.

5 comments:

  1. This blog is a valuable resource. Thank you for providing it. Worth adding to the blogroll.

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  2. Thanks! Glad you find it useful

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  3. It's important to note that Reverse 911 is a trademarked product name; the system in use in Boulder County is NOT that product, though it performs (or is supposed to perform) a similar function.

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  4. Thanks for the clarification - I didn't realize either it was TM or not the Boulder system.

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  5. I just changed the text to reflect this, thanks

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