Communications during an earthquake

Today, I watched a drama showing what would happen to Wellington if an 8.2 level earthquake struck the city. Suffice to say, things would be horrible.

This got me thinking, how could I help the situation. One thing I noticed was that communications was patchy at best. So how can we improve communications in an earthquake?

Solar powered wireless adhoc router.

Imagine a mesh network of lowcost wireless routers that are solar powered. These networks would consist of:

  • A solar panel producing 12 volts DC with enough current to run a router and trickle charge a battery;
  • A 12 volt battery, not unlike those used in scooters;
  • A linux based router.

Think a connection of these routers in overlapping meshes much the same way cellphone towers are. Each mesh point has a unique IP address, and knows the address of its nearest neighbours.

So what’s the advantages of this over cellphones + linelines + radio communication?

  1. Low low cost. This technology isn’t that advanced, and is pretty robust.
  2. Simple. Place the above devices into a watertight container, and place on the top of every power pole and tall building.
  3. Mass. One cell phone tower services a large area. If that cell phone tower stops working, then that area is out of communications. By having many multiple redundant wireless routers in an area, the chances of some of them still working in an emergency is greater than that of a cell phone tower.
  4. Self-reliant. Containing both a way of charging, and its own power source, these devices could work in difficult situations. If the solar panel still faces the Sun, the device could keep working for years to come. If running on battery power, the device could run for a week or two.
  5. Allows data transfer. This is becoming increasingly important in this day and age to not only communicate via voice, but data as well, such as telemetry.
  6. An open network. The Wellington City Council could provide this network free of charge, and charge people access to the Internet. During an emergency, the council could impose Quality of Service on emergency data having a higher priority than non-emergency data.

I think the benefits of having a mesh wifi network over an entire city are amazing, and can be used well in an emergency as well.

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