Sunday, September 04, 2005
Wise People Don't Rush In
David P. Reed, writing on Dave Farber's IP List, reminds us:
During [the September 11, 2001 incidents], Internet based communications worked pretty well. The result was that reporters descended on "experts" like me to try to get a "money quote" that the Internet was designed to withstand Global Thermonuclear War. When I pointed out that that was not the case, it took a lot of effort to keep them from calling the next guy in search of the story they wanted (truth be damned).If we rush in with today's half-baked, transitional technologies, we could find ourselves in situation analogous to that created by the Help America Vote Act, where the cure is worse than the disease. Let's do what we can to help Katrina's suffering victims, but then let's take a step back. And think.
Now it seems that everyone is claiming their technology (including some, like "self-organizing mesh radios" that don't exist yet) would be the "best" solution for Katrina-like disasters.
I'd submit, Dave, that most of the "experts" don't know much at all about the situation faced in Katrina. The technologies being discussed may or may not be useful for the actual jobs at hand.
Trunked radio systems (which are the most common police and fire systems) have central points of failure, and showed problems in 9/11. Cellular systems are not engineered for disasters, and may or may not degrade gracefully. 2-way systems with repeaters like Ham radios can be quite useful, but don't scale well.
Mesh systems look promising, but they've hardly been tried in such situations.
It seems less likely that "hardening" existing systems is the proper approach, compared to rethinking the overall emergency comms architecture to focus on resiliency via flexibility and internetwork interoperability.
If we want to deploy more resilient communications systems for near and far future emergencies, I'm sure we could, given resolve and innovative/creative thought coupled with engineering judgment. But it's a sad waste to focus all this "expert" energy on Katrina's relationship to today's random collection of technologies, as if we are trying to be Cisco, Verizon Wireless, or Tropos shills.
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