[aprssig] 8 hour Backup Power Rule

Ray McKnight shortsheep at worldnet.att.net
Mon Mar 17 23:19:20 EDT 2008

Folks, we're talking about EMERGENCY communications.  The "8-hour rule"
is based on FCC requirements for cellular
providers to maintain power to their tower sites.  Many are remote, some
shared, some on rooftops, some not
Easily accessible or unable to support the physical weight of generators
or batteries and UPS's.  The fact is
That what we - HAMS - need to power will seldom be as elaborate or
demanding as far as power requirements go.
The premise for emergency comms for HAMS should always be:
1)  Assume you are completely on you own - i.e. bring EVERYTHING you
even tables, chairs, shelter, pencils, gasoline, generators etc etc.
2)       Assume you will be there and able to operate at 100% until
released by competent authority.
So have enough personnel and resources or be able to replenish such as
3)       I would be embarrassed to consider anything less than a 24 hr
I plan for indefinitely.  Even an HF rig doesn't need that much power
when considering
the duty cycle.  Don't plan on how fast you'll run out of battery power,
plan on providing
100% power for everything you need to operate for as long as it takes.
4)       Have spares for EVERYTHING!
The FCC plan is ridiculously flawed.  The first 8 hrs will be only a
ramp up, organizational period.
First responders will arrive quickly but seldom look towards Hams for
initial comms.  They are usually
uncoordinated between agencies and *usually* unable to communicate
between others.  They are
There to stabilize the situation, assess the public hazard, establish
hazard zones, prevent entry, 
Search for survivors and assist in rescue and transportion of injured.
Hams are basically unwelcome at
"ground zero", and with current regulations most likely prevented from
entering the area.  Our role will
Be after the situation is stabilized and C3 is established (command,
control and communications).
We will either provide missing links in the C3 infrastructure, help
coordinate non critical missions
(like shelter comms etc) or augment needed resources.  Health & Welfare
we do very well, vectoring
search helicopters and ground teams most of us do very poorly.
What makes me laugh about the "8-hr rule" is that in a true emergency,
cellular phones are mostly
useless anyway because of the massive volume of users all crammed around
the few operational sites
Simply overload the network.  During the Seattle earthquake (a 7.1
magnitude BTW), I witnessed
thousands of workers flee from their hi-rise offices onto the city
streets.  The first thing they did was
Grab their cell phones to try and check on family and loved ones, but
almost no one could get a dial
Tone.  Everyone was in a frenzy as they assumed because their cell phone
was out that the earthquake
Had destroyed everything.  This made them even more frantic to use it.
It was a scene from a bad
Science fiction movie.  
During Katrina, one by one the TV and radio stations went down as
transmitter sites ran dry of gas.
The little fuel still available was commandeered for emergency response.
No one had planned that
Their 2-3 day  fuel supply wouldn't be sufficient.  Gasoline, sitting in
tanks at local stations, was
useless as no stations had emergency power to pump it.  Even with the
8-hr rule for gas stations
As is planned, demand will quickly use up available supply in a few
Has been stabilized!  It's poor planning to rely on batteries alone as
you will be hard pressed
To recharge them.  Someone mentioned using their 10amp charging outlet
on their genset.
Have you considered how long it takes to recharge a 120-AH storage
battery at ten amps???
That's a TERRIBLE waste of fuel for a generator capable of doing so much
more work.  If
you have to run the gennie for 12+ hrs to recharge a battery, just run
it 24hrs for 120vAC and
Have a battery as backup!  Or run a real battery charger which can
provide 30-50 amps.
Sure, use what you have and improvise, but damnit PLAN PLAN PLAN so you
don't have to
Improvise and make us all look like unprepared idiots.  I say be 100%
self sufficient for as long as
It takes, which is certainly more than eight hours!  Here in the Seattle
area I've seen fairly large
Communities without power for 2+ WEEKS after a winter storm.  When
millions are out of power,
The utility company operates on a priority basis, and remote areas are
always last.  Think of your
Emergency comms plans as being worst case, isolated and without any
means to support you.
Don't even plan on someone bringing you hot coffee after a 12 hrs night
shift.  It's nice when
It happens, but be prepared to take care of your comms and yourself for
as long as needed.
Don't assume FEMA will be reliable or even anywhere to be found.
It took 3+ days to get WATER to the Superdome.  I'm not betting my chips
on anything other than what I am prepared to provide myself.
Just my 2cents worth.
Kingston, WA
-----Original Message-----
From: aprssig-bounces at lists.tapr.org
[mailto:aprssig-bounces at lists.tapr.org] On Behalf Of Henry Wolcott
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2008 2:19 PM
To: bruninga at usna.edu; TAPR APRS Mailing List
Subject: Re: [aprssig] 8 hour Backup Power Rule
Certainly at least 8 hours. FEMA in the past as told us in emergency
management that we would be on our own for three days before they could
be mobilized. They may be better now. Of course the state may well be
mobilizing much sooner but if the disaster is widespread it is likely to
be a while before the smaller towns can be helped. Bob's 8 hours seems
to be a reasonably achievable minimum and my recommended 3 days is a
difficult to achieve maximum but a few key repeater owners should be
able to do it.

Hank   KA1WTS

Robert Bruninga <bruninga at usna.edu> wrote:

While doing emergency ham radio planning, conider the magic "8
hour" rule being pushed by the FCC onto the cell phone
companies. Attached below is more than you want to know about
it, but it suggested to me a thought for Ham radio.

That is, if ham radio is going to "offer services" for emergency
preparedness, then if we made sure that we could offer "8 hours
of black-out" communications, then we are one step ahead of the
nations cellular network...

Just something to use in your quiver.

-----Original Message-----
From: tacos-bounces+bruninga=nadn.navy.mil at amrad.org
[mailto:tacos-bounces+bruninga=nadn.navy.mil at amrad.org] On
Behalf Of Karl W4KRL
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2008 6:07 PM
To: tacos at amrad.org
Subject: Cell Carriers Fight Backup Power Rule

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When Hurricane Katrina assaulted the Gulf
Coast in 2005,
wind and flooding knocked out hundreds of cell towers and cell
silencing wireless communication exactly when emergency crews
and victims
needed it.

To avoid similar debacles in the future, the Federal
Commission wants most cell transmitter sites in the U.S. to have
at least
eight hours of backup power in the event main power fails, one
of several
moves regulators say will make the nation's communication system
and more reliable.

Two and a half years after Katrina and eight months after the
regulations were first released, the two sides are still
wrestling with the

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., put those
regulations on hold
last week while it considers an appeal by some in the wireless

Several cell phone companies, while agreeing their networks need
to become
more resilient, have opposed the FCC's backup power regulations,
they were illegally drafted and would present a huge economic
bureaucratic burden.

There are almost 210,000 cell towers and roof-mounted cell sites
across the
country, and carriers have said many would require some
modification. At
least one industry estimate puts the per-site price tag at up to

In a request for the FCC to delay implementing the change,
Sprint Nextel
Corp. wrote that the rules would lead to "staggering and
irreparable harm"
for the company. The cost couldn't be recouped through legal
action or
passed on to consumers, it said.

Jackie McCarthy, director of governmental affairs for PCIA - The
Infrastructure Association, said the government should allow the
industry to
decide how best to keep its networks running, pointing out that
all the
backup power in the world won't help a cell tower destroyed by
wind or

"Our members' position is that the 'one size fits all' approach
to requiring
eight hours of backup power at all cell sites really doesn't
accomplish the
commission's stated purpose of providing reliable wireless
McCarthy said.

The wireless carriers also are claiming the FCC failed to follow
guidelines for creating new mandates and went far beyond its
authority when
it created the eight-hour requirement last summer.

FCC officials have so far stood their ground.

"We find that the benefits of ensuring sufficient emergency
backup power,
especially in times of crisis involving possible loss of life or
outweighs the fact that carriers may have to spend resources,
perhaps even
significant resources, to comply with the rule," the agency said
in a
regulatory filing.

"The need for backup power in the event of emergencies has been
abundantly clear by recent events, and the cost of failing to
have such
power may be measured in lives lost," it said.

A panel of experts appointed by the FCC following Katrina was
critical of
how communications networks performed during and after the
storm. The group
noted that service restoration was "a long and slow process."

Panel members recommended the FCC work with telecommunications
companies to
make their networks more robust. Regulators then created the
mandate, exempting carriers with fewer than 500,000 subscribers.

Wireless companies quickly complained about the regulations,
calling them
arbitrary and saying they would rob them of the flexibility to
target backup
power upgrades at the most important or most vulnerable cell
sites in their

They also said local zoning rules, existing leases and
limitations could make it impossible to add batteries or backup
to cell sites.

Miles Schreiner, director of national operations planning for
T-Mobile, said
it can take 1,500 pounds or more of batteries to provide eight
hours of
backup energy in areas with a lot of cell phone traffic.

"In urban areas, most of the sites are on rooftops and those
sites weren't
built to hold that much weight," Schreiner said.

In regulatory filings, the FCC has said the wireless carriers
chose to put
their equipment in areas that can't be readily expanded.
However, the agency
agreed in October that it would exempt cell sites from the rules
but only if
the wireless carrier provided paperwork proving the exemption
was necessary.

It would give companies six months from when the rules went into
effect to
submit those reports and then another six months to either bring
the sites
into compliance or explain how they would provide backup service
to those
areas through other means, such as portable cellular

CTIA-The Wireless Association and several carriers asked the
U.S. Court of
Appeals in Washington, D.C., to intervene, saying the exemptions
would still
leave wireless companies scrambling to inspect and compile
reports on
thousands of towers.

On Feb. 28, the court granted Sprint Nextel's request to stay
regulations while the case moves forward. Oral arguments are
scheduled for

An FCC spokesman said the agency was disappointed with court's

Not all carriers have joined the fight. Verizon Wireless is not
a party to
the appeal and has a history of installing backup generators and
to its cell sites. Most famously, during a 2003 blackout that
kept much of
the Northeast in the dark for hours, Verizon customers could

AT&T, the nation's largest wireless carrier, would not comment
on the FCC

McCarthy, whose organization represents both the wireless
carriers and
companies that lease space on their own cell towers, said her
members worry
that they will face a high hurdle to get exemptions.

"I don't think it's hyperbole or exaggeration to say if it gets
to that
point with specific sites it could lead to sites being
decommissioned," she
said. "If the ultimate endgame is a site being turned off
because of
noncompliance, the area immediately around that site is going to
have an
immediate negative impact. It's going to hurt public safety from
day one."

By DAVID TWIDDY AP Business Writer

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