When Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit Queensland last week, one of the casualties was the region’s mobile phone network. Phone towers can stop working because they have been damaged by the wind, or because they have run out of diesel to run their generators.
Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: a number of people will find their mobile phones not connected to the network, leaving them without communications for an extended period of time. Here's how to stay connected in times of need.
It’s not just tropical cyclones that can affect mobile communications. Bushfires and other disasters can also lead to a break in the network.
This loss of communication is extremely isolating, and potentially very dangerous. Whether it’s the inability to call an ambulance or the absence of regular safety warnings, a lack of communications can be life-threatening.
The sensation of being cut off from the rest of the world also brings with it a danger of a different kind. Severe isolation can cause concern for our loved ones. This very human problem is what led me to start my research in this area.
So how can we let people communicate using their mobile phones, when the phone network isn’t available?
All about networking
For nationwide communications, you really do need phone towers and their supporting infrastructure. There currently just aren’t any good alternative solutions to providing communications on such a large scale.
But if you change the scope of the solution to focus more on internal communications within smaller communities, alternatives suddenly begin to present themselves.
Housing affordability, high house prices and rents are attracting plenty of media attention right now. The latest figures on house prices, mortgages, number of first time buyers and so on are dissected by journalists and commentators as if this is an issue of recent origin. In fact what we have here is a long-term structural problem that has been neglected for decades.