Cell boosters proving weather emergency lifeline

Thursday, November 01, 2012
New York: Cellular signal boosters can help keep communications available during weather emergencies, creating a lifeline between storm victims, their families, and emergency first responders even when a significant percentage of cell towers are knocked out of service, as they were by Hurricane Sandy.

"Cellular networks are a resilient and redundant communications option available to the general public," according to industry expert Joe Banos, "so phones and other cellular devices can be a critical communications link during weather-related emergencies."

Signal boosters can aide users by providing a more reliable signal in weak-signal areas, and by accessing a signal from a more distant tower should nearby towers get knocked out of service by extreme weather conditions.

First responders commonly employ signal boosters in their vehicles to ensure reliable data transfer – and a backup for voice communications – needed to coordinate emergency response and rescue operations.

Private citizens use in-vehicle boosters to eliminate dead zones in urban, suburban and rural areas. Their ability to create a strong, reliable and stable signal from a weak one can give users access to the latest weather information online, and help them call for needed emergency assistance or communicate their safety to loved ones.

Signal boosters' value are storm-proven: When Hurricane Irene battered the Caribbean and U.S. East Coast in 2011, the crew aboard a booster-equipped vessel off Compass Cay in the Bahamas were the only mariners in the area able to maintain cellular communications as the eye passed just 12 miles east.

The cell signal, originating from another island, was too weak to allow voice calls, but did allow text messages to be sent and received. The crew was able to get weather updates from Florida via text message, which they then relayed to other boats in the area via radio.

Signal boosters also aided the clean up and recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although cellular service in New Orleans had been knocked out by the storm, utility vehicles working to restore power were able to access signals from more distant undamaged towers across Lake Pontchartrain to help coordinate repair work.
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