SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Art Yonemoto
Art Yonemoto is President of Yonemoto & Associates. He has been conducting Telecom (Landline and Wireless) audits for 21 years...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Art Yonemoto | April 23, 2014 |

 
   

Emergency Communications a Year After Boston Bombing

Emergency Communications a Year After Boston Bombing The Marathon bombing raised various wireless issues, from rumors of a government "kill switch" on the network, to how to gain priority service.

The Marathon bombing raised various wireless issues, from rumors of a government "kill switch" on the network, to how to gain priority service.

We recently observed the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing (April 15, 2013). That event raised various wireless issues, from rumors of a government "kill switch" on the network, to how to gain priority service.

Did Verizon (and Other Wireless Providers) Shut Down Their Networks?
In the aftermath of the Boston explosions, cell phone service went "down" in many parts of the metro area. This prompted rumors that the local authorities forced the wireless vendors to shut down their networks. After all, there was a legitimate concern that the explosive devices were set off remotely using cell phones. And after two bombs exploded, how many other bombs were out there? (Note--the bombing was not actually detonated using a cell phone. Rather, it was triggered by a toy car remote control switch.)

So these were merely rumors. It turned out that the problem with the cell network was simply congestion, too many people trying to use their cell phones to call others (see the Rush Hour on "Steroids" section below). There was no government mandated shut down of the cellular networks.

Does the Government Have a "Kill Switch" to Shut Down an Area's Cell Network?
In April 2011, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) district shut down cell networks at some of their stations. There were a series of protests (over a shooting of a passenger) taking place at specific stations (closing down the stations & disrupting service). BART invoked public safety as justification to shut down cell service. The protesters were supposedly using their cell phones to coordinate the next station to protest.

There was blowback from this action, and BART agreed not to invoke this policy in the future. However, this does bring up the question, does the government have the authority to shut down a wireless network? The answer is that, while there is obviously no single "switch" that the government can throw to unilaterally bring down a wireless network, there has been contingency planning in the event of a need for a government-initiated shutdown of the network(s). National Communications System's Standard Operating Procedure 303 is understood as "a shutdown and restoration process for use by commercial and private wireless networks during national crises." There is controversy and confusion over this topic (i.e. debates over whether this infringes on free speech). In the case of the Boston Marathon bombings, however, no "kill switch" order was given.

Rush Hour on "Steroids"
How often have you received a busy signal (or no signal) during rush hour? The cellular networks are designed to meet a certain level of capacity, and wireless carriers try to balance the peak (rush hour) needs with minimizing their costs (i.e. # of cell towers, equipment, resources, etc.). The result is good availability during non-peak hours, but spotty availability during peak (rush) hours.

During rush hour, you may have 20 to 30% of subscribers using their cell phones (and getting occasional busy signals). Now imagine a scenario in which 75 to 90% of subscribers are trying to use their cell phone (like in the immediate aftermath of a bombing). And remember, it is not just people trying to call outbound, but others who are calling into the cellular network where the incident took place. Your friends, family, co-workers, associates from all around the country (and world) are calling to people they know in Boston. Thus, for each person trying to call out on their cell phone (from Boston), there can be several other people trying to call in. Added together, this creates massive network congestion.

Wireless Priority Service ("Elite Queue")
The U.S. Government has set up a Wireless Priority Service (WPS) to allow high-priority emergency users to gain better access to the cellular network.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, WPS users were able to gain Wireless Voice access by dialing (from their pre-approved cell phone):

* + 272 + Destination Phone Number + "Send"

WPS does not interrupt other calls. Rather, when a call (slot) frees up, they get priority over others. It is similar to waiting in line at an airline check-in counter. The WPS line is the "Elite" queue. When a position (call slot) opens up, the service takes the next person in the WPS (Elite) queue--and as long as there are WPS users in queue, they will always gain priority over General Public users.

Wireless Priority Service Requirements
In order to receive WPS on your cell phone, you need to complete an application and be approved. There are 5 categories of authorized users:

• Executive Leadership & Policy Makers (President & Congress)
• Disaster Response Personnel and Military Command and Control
• Public Health, Safety and Law Enforcement
• Public Service, Utilities and Public Welfare
• Disaster Recovery

Several of our clients (Hospital, Hospice, Health Care segments) have applied and been approved for WPS. The monthly cost is usually $4.50 per phone per month, although some states' wireless carrier agreements may reduce or waive the monthly fee.

Other Ideas
Rather than try to call someone during these high-congestion times, here are some ideas that have proven helpful:

Email--If you have access to the Internet, use the data network, which is unaffected by the Voice/Cellular network traffic
Text--Messages can be queued up and delivered as capacity becomes available
Twitter--Provides widespread information sharing quickly
Google Person Finder--A Centralized Digital Bulletin Board for survivors, participants, family, friends, etc.
GETS--Government Emergency Telephone System--The Landline counterpart to WPS
Pay Phones--Landlines will also have similar congestion, however, pay phones will receive High Priority

Be Prepared: Disaster Recovery
Most companies have Disaster Recovery plans. However, not all disasters are the same. There are certain "types" of disasters, each with their own unique challenges:

• Sudden & Widespread (Terrorist Attack, Earthquake, Tsunami, Biological/Chemical)--Disasters that are unforeseen, with virtually no time to prepare. It affects a large area.
• Sudden & Localized (Train Derailment, Plant Explosions, School Shooting, Fires)--Sudden, however more localized.
• Known & Widespread (Hurricanes, Large Snowstorms, Volcanic Eruptions, Floods)--Generally there are minutes/hours/days warning, so some preparation can be done (evacuation, staging of supplies).
• Known & Localized (Tornados, Fog)--Some preparation can be done, within a relatively small area.

Conclusion
On both a professional (Company Disaster Plan) and personal (your own checklist) level, think about how you are able to respond during a crisis. Better yet, can you simulate the network effects of the disaster type, and practice the steps you should take, including preparation? As much as possible, consider a "Usability Study" to see how your plan would actually work with real people.

Disaster Plans all look great in theory, but they often break down in the "real world."

The Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC) is an international organization of independent information and communication technology (ICT) professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

October 18, 2017

Microsofts recent Ignite event had some critically important announcements for enterprise communications. Namely, Microsofts new Team Collaboration offering, Teams, will be its primary communicatio

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.