hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Communication: Always a Problem

Always an issue: as Steve McQueen summed it up in "Cool Hand Luke" about 4 decades ago, "What we have here is a problem in communication."  That may be the essence of what we always are having here in Point Roberts.

Last week, I heard from the PREP group.  This is another volunteer group, in this case one organized around having solutions ahead of time for at least some of the problems that might confront us in the event of some kind of disaster where the peninsula became at least metaphorically cut off from the mainland in terms of getting needed help.  How do we communicate with one another in such a situation?  All the regular electronic methods might well be unavailable: no functioning land phones, cell phones, or internet.  (What, they're going to deprive us of G3 or whatever it is that gets to the cloud all the time?)

The good news is that there is old-fashioned ham radio, which, I think, is the kind my father used to fool around with in high school about 80 years ago.  PREP has received a $7,500 grant from Puget Sound Energy to provide them with more of the kind of equipment that is needed for that to work for us.  There is a ham radio operators group here on the Point.  That is good to know (which is to say that we have people who know how to use the equipment that is being made available).  Good work, PREP!  And thanks to Puget Sound Energy's community giving program.

Another kind of communication problem was evident last night at the Fire District meeting.  There has been a problem with the various communication systems used by the District Volunteers for many years, apparently.  When an emergency call is issued, it is sent to the pager of whoever is first in line on duty, who then goes to the location where help is needed.  That volunteer assesses whether additional help is needed and puts a call out to other volunteers.  The problem lies in the fact that the pagers don't always work very well with the antennae available to them here or in Bellingham.  So nobody may get the call.  And the additional help doesn't show until they find some other way to communicate.  They have radios in the vehicles, but if the volunteer is performing CPR and needs backup, he can't easily say, "Just wait a minute while I go out to the vehicle and make a few calls on my radio."

So it's a communication problem that apparently can't be solved with different/better equipment: the problem is too many trees on the ground and too little antenna way up high.  Or at least that is how I understood the problem.  They're working on it, but I'm thinking that they've been working on it for some years and aren't getting it solved.  There was a suggestion that the problem was "political," but I don't know what that might mean.  Perhaps the hand of the do-no-good US Congress is reaching clear up to Point Roberts?

[Note: the Fire District videotapes their meetings and posts the tapes on their website (Fire District 5, Whatcom County).  You can listen to the discussion of this topic yourself and, if you are more technically competent than I am (wouldn't be hard),  you may obtain a better understanding of the problem that seems to be lacking a solution other than a giant antenna.  The video site is here, but the January 9, 2015 video is not yet posted there.]

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