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Verizon Drops 10,000 911 Calls During Blizzard

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the can-you-hear-me-n dept.

Communications 300

mschaffer noted a Bloomberg piece saying "US regulators said Verizon Communications Inc.'s networks may have dropped a 'truly alarming' number of wireless emergency calls during a snow storm last month, and asked the carrier to investigate." The article says 10,000 calls failed to connect during one blizzard. Can't wait to see what all those AT&T migrators think.

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Obligatory (5, Funny)

inKubus (199753) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281202)

911, Can you hear me now?

Re:Obligatory (0)

raitchison (734047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281242)

Called it ;)

Re:Obligatory (0)

Bitcloud21 (1492275) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281282)

I admit it. I chuckled at this.

Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (5, Interesting)

raitchison (734047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281224)

Seriously, 10,000 911 calls is a huge number, even if 911 is being abused there were no doubt a lot of calls from people trapped in their homes (for people who have ditched their landlines) or cars. Imagine an elderly person in their home when the heat goes out, in those cold temperatures that can become life threatening very quickly.

Things like this are one of the main reasons we pay ~$25/mo for a land line despite having 5 active cell phones in the house on 2 separate networks (not to mention a few inactive ones that can still call 911) I know that if the excrement hits the air circulator that I will have more options to reach people than finicky mobile networks.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281312)

I lived for two weeks in the buffalo winter without heat when i first moved in. With some blankets and a sleeping bag you can do fine.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Gohtar (1829140) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281350)

I have survived 2 Utah winters with no heat. +1 on blankets. And can their 911 service even handle that call load?

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281810)

I've actually had to try to survive a couple of nights in New Orleans in dead of summer with NO air conditioning, man, that was brutal. I don't know how people lived and worked down here prior to the invention of AC, especially with all the damned clothes they work back then...whew.

I was shocked when I visited a friend from the NE area and found that MANY people don't even have AC in their houses?!?! I'd never seen that before really, growing up in the south.

I guess the cold up there in analogous to our heat in the summer down here.

I''m usually not in a huge hurry for winter to be over...but with this weeks temps staying in the mid 70's, I have to guess the cold stuff is just about over for us down here.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281856)

I've actually had to try to survive a couple of nights in New Orleans in dead of summer with NO air conditioning, man, that was brutal.

You should have tried some blankets. I've recently read that they work wonders.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281968)

I had a childhood friend who used to sleep with his dog on the floor with the window open. In midwinter. In the interior of Alaska. Of course, this same guy used to go barefoot in snow sometimes too. The point is, you CAN get used to cold if you have a fast enough metabolism to keep your body temperature up and enough food (proper clothing helps too). I've been outside in 60 below weather myself (not -60 Fwith windchill, but actual thermometer reading of -60 F). It made it really easy to tell where the thin spots were in my down parka, but I survived it.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (5, Insightful)

raitchison (734047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281368)

You might or I might be fine, but I was talking specifically about elderly people without a lot of stamina, especially problematic for a widow who's never had to worry about how to deal with the cold in her entire lifetime.

In general, many people have become soft thanks to modern life.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (-1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281404)

How much stamina does it take to go get some blankets out of the closet? An old widow should certainly have gotten those out when the storm started.

If you don't have an alternative method of cooking with fuel for two weeks, the same amount of shelf stable food, and some basic sleeping bags and blankets you are asking for a miserable death next time the power fails in a large area.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281520)

Why is 2 weeks the magic number?

Hell, if you are mostly healthy and have access to water, 5 or 6 days without food is barely dangerous, probably mostly uncomfortable.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281566)

Because any longer than that and you can pretty much bet modern civilization totally failed. Two weeks is just a little longer than it should take to get power back to pretty much anywhere. You try 5 or 6 days without food in the middle of winter with no heat and let me know how it works out for you.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281660)

I'm sure I would hate it (and I usually do have quite some days of this or that dry food, it is easy to put the new stuff on the back of the shelf), but I'm also quite sure I would survive it, with basically zero issues.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281864)

You try 5 or 6 days without food in the middle of winter with no heat and let me know how it works out for you.

I'm sure I would hate it (and I usually do have quite some days of this or that dry food, it is easy to put the new stuff on the back of the shelf), but I'm also quite sure I would survive it, with basically zero issues.

Fat slashdotters living in their mothers' basements are quite different from frail old ladies. The fat keeps us warm and provides needed chemical energy.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281822)

It certainly wasn't a tragedy or anything, but when I was a kid after Hurricane Hugo we went for over 45 days without power. Now, granted, that was a little over 20 years ago, but it'd still fall into the realm of what I'd call modern. I had a computer and video game systems I was praying for power to run :).

Overall though, you make due. We'd go to my uncle's house about a quarter mile away and use his hand powered water pump to fill buckets with water. Certain buckets were set aside and used for cooking (on propane powered camp stoves) - others for washing (spongebaths don't give you nice freshly showered feeling, but you still can stay relatively clean and keep water usage to a minimum).

I personally just don't get how people who live in disaster prone areas don't stock up on at least the basic stuff needed to survive for a while without outside contact. Down here in South Carolina snow storms, aren't really an issue, but hurricanes most certainly are. I keep a decent supply of water, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, candles, gasoline, propane, a generator, canned goods, a chainsaw, and a camp stove out in the garage. Barely takes up a small corner out there and a total investment of less than $1,000. It's cheap insurance.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281906)

"I personally just don't get how people who live in disaster prone areas don't stock up on at least the basic stuff needed to survive for a while without outside contact. "

I can answer that one pretty easily for myself, living in New Orleans.

When a storm is on the way, I just get the fuck out of town!!

I have never understood why some people want to stay and ride out the storm? I figure (unless it is a Katrina type disaster) it is basically gonna be about a 4x day or so vacation out visiting friends and relatives...and I'll head back when things are all clear.

I did stay once through a tropical storm..and power was out for me a couple days. I thought, why do this and be miserable again. I certainly don't like to be in NOLA in the middle of summer with no AC...why even stay to do that?

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (4, Funny)

ifrag (984323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281782)

Why is 2 weeks the magic number?

2 weeks is of course the length of time a zombie can last without eating brains. Assuming that the zombies did not get a chance to eat any of your neighbors you can now go exploring for food. The remaining difficulty is with migratory zombies, so there is still some chance of "miserable death" occuring.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (5, Insightful)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281584)

Frailer bodies have more difficulty in producing and maintaining the required body heat. It is easier for a younger healthier person to keep their core temp up. Blankets only go so far, and an older person may not be able to keep warm enough.

There is also the awareness to get some extra blankets out. They may go to bed feeling fine, but then have hypothermia set in over night. At that point, you start to shut down and you aren't thinking too well. More than likely, they would remain where they are instead of getting up to find more warmth.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (-1, Troll)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281834)

Yes, but they're old and no longer useful. The overall impact is purely aesthetic. I mean I would hate to live in a world where we euthenize the elderly (that includes suddenly denying medical service and "letting nature take over," though I feel what we do now--best effort, but we'll call it faster on an old guy whose heart will probably fail completely in the next 2 days anyway-- is reasonable), but it's not really a huge emergency when lots and lots of old people die in the middle of a snowstorm. They're old, they should have figured shit out by now, if not then oh well.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281626)

I don't think stamina was the right word.

The body's ability to regulate it's core body temperature diminishes with age. This is why the elderly is more prone to hypothermia in the winter and heat strokes in the summer. Blankets may help but the lower metabolism that the elderly may have would make it necessary to have an additional heat source to help warm the blankets initially, recover any heat being lost through the blankets, or when they have to get out from underneath the blankets to relieve themselves.

Loss of heat when the elderly is present is an emergency situation and warrants an effort to find alternative accommodations.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (5, Insightful)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281638)

> If you don't have...

Some other things whose lack might invoke your "miserable death":

A 2 week supply of water. You don't think public water supplies are going to remain stable, do you? And if you're talking about "death by cold", then you're also talking "pipes freeze". And since you're talking about using sleeping bags and blankets to keep yourself warm, that same water supply needs to be in meltable chunks. You'll be a sad panda when you find your 5 gallon buckets are 5 gallon blocks of ice. ... and sadder when the heat comes back on and you find they split...

Emergency sanitation. Frozen pipes. Two weeks. you do the math. And if you're talking "can't open the door because of the snow", don't tell me "just do it outside in the snow".

Your own home. You honestly think you can store all of that in a studio apartment? If you do, where are you going to put the sleeping bag down at?

I'll point out as well that the "old widow", being "old" may well not be able to generate enough heat on her own to keep from freezing, even with the best of insulation. It takes a lot of calories to do that kind of thing, and you have to be able to USE those calories, which an old person may well not be acclimatized to.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281676)

How much stamina does it take to go get some blankets out of the closet?

Not much. How much stamina does it take to survive the cold even when you have the blankets? More than some old people have.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281944)

How much stamina does it take to go get some blankets out of the closet?

Not much. How much stamina does it take to survive the cold even when you have the blankets? More than some old people have.

Its all very amusing watching southerners condescendingly babble about the elderly struggling in unsurvivable 32 degree F weather, but PLEASE recall that there are actually people in Canada over the age of 50! Grandparents are not simply placed on ice floes and pushed out to sea up here. In fact I have heard a rumor there are people in northern Wisconsin over the age of 80! And not just surviving, but thriving.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281572)

They should get some cheap +stam enchants. Sheesh. :)

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281440)

I lived in Buffalo for 20 years it's doesn't get that cold in the winter there. Lake Erie keeps things warmer than they would normally get.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281484)

Let me clarify, West Seneca. Which might not get that cold, but colder than right on the lake. Those weeks it only got down to single digits at night. I have also gone camping in the Alaska winter, that was double digits negative. Both seem to have not killed me.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281770)

Sleeping bags and blankets are fine, but hookers really help you keep warm when it's cold out. Though granted, that's only for an hour (unless you're Mr. Moneybags or something).

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281342)

If your emergency plan for a SHTF scenario is 'dial 911' I would respectfully submit that your plan is a bit deficient.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

raitchison (734047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281470)

Perhaps it's just a small part of my plan, I've got a small generator, stored water + non-perishable food, not to mention camping gear, even if I don't need to call 911 it might be helpful to reach out to loved ones.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281554)

Good to hear. The reason I mention it is that it seems like most people today have a 'somebody else will save me!' attitude and end up being very, very disappointed by the results.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281776)

And this is the real point. 911 is OK for individual emergencies - as a mechanism to deal with massive problems, it's never going to work. Landline or wireless. Verizon should indeed look at how their system responded to the stress but society needs to get a clue - you can't always call daddy and have them pull your unprepared ass out of the ice. Yes, it can be a real problem for older / younger / disadvantaged folks but as a number of posters have demonstrating, survival in place isn't all that hard. The biggest issue is realizing that you might have to do it BEFORE the problem starts.

We could all come up with government lead systems for this sort of thing, but it rankles me to think that we're creating a society that absolutely has to have big brother deal with damned near everything. Everything tends to get expensive after a while...

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281850)

While I don't have a generator, I've got enough magnets and spare wire around that I could rig together a simple magneto if I am truly desperate for power and have some free time (something I think I'll have in abundance should I truly get stuck inside). I have a number of oil lamps + spare oil for light, I always have large bundles of dried oats, rice, and beans on hand. It won't be fancy, but its protein that'll keep your body from breaking down vital organs and carbs to keep you from dissolving too much body fat. I don't have water on hand, however should it be a snow emergency a pyrex bowl of snow suspended over an oil lamp should melt snow into potable water pretty effectively. As for heat, I have a number of blankets due to being too cheap to usually turn the heater above 50 without my girlfriend coming to visit (like Scrooge, cold is cheap, and I like it). Its not much, but I think I should be able to get by, even without power.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281900)

I may have to keep several gallons of beer on hand. Of course, light pale ale, the good stuff, minimum hops, maybe 2.5% alcohol, the kind of shit you can hammer back like crazy and get "a little buzzed" from. Strong beer is not what I want; besides, I dislike it. It stores well, it's easy to handle, and enjoyable, and safe.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281710)

If your emergency plan for a SHTF scenario is 'dial 911' I would respectfully submit that your plan is a bit deficient.

If you have a plan for it, it's not a SHTF scenario.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281938)

"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable."

~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Ben4jammin (1233084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281908)

No kidding...went 6 days with no power (from the city) in US-KY in the ice storm that hit a few years back.

At no point did it occur to me to dial 911...and we had from ages 2 to 70 in the house. I saw an article that said most people only have 3 days of food in their house...I have more than that in just soup.

By planning ahead, we had enough kerosene and food to get us through. I would add that if your plan doesn't include having some supplies on hand before the first flake falls, it really isn't a plan.

I always wondered of those homes that don't have over 3 day's food, how many have a big screen TV? Misallocation of resources is no accident

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281374)

I don't bother to have the land line anymore because when times get tough enough for it to be the last option, well, things are so tough you're not going to be able to get someone on the other end anyways...

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281412)

Things like this are one of the main reasons we pay ~$25/mo for a land line despite having 5 active cell phones in the house on 2 separate networks (not to mention a few inactive ones that can still call 911) I know that if the excrement hits the air circulator that I will have more options to reach people than finicky mobile networks.

Keep in mind, they said, "Verizon", not, "Verizon Wireless." That likely means your land line would have had its 911 calls dropped too.

Like you, emergencies are the only reason I still have a land line. Its a good bet to hedge. But even land lands can fail in a variety of ways. On the other side of the spectrum are those who have services like Vonage. When the power is out, so is your phone. So its really the worst or false security.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281522)

The last time we had a real ice storm in my area Power and phone failed at the same time. When big trees break and take the lines right off the poles that happens. Cell phones were working again before land lines in many areas. Phones are not security in bad weather.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281634)

Cell phones were working again before land lines in many areas. Phones are not security in bad weather.

The problem with cell phones is they are far, far more likely to reach capacity limits before land lines. Not to mention they require charging. And when towers go down, the phone goes into maximum TX power to reach a tower, which can drain a battery in hours, leaving you with no phone at all, even after high priority items like towers are brought back on line.

While not always true, as your story illustrates, land lands have a very long, long history of reliability in the worst of conditions. This is not even close to true for cell technology.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281870)

All I can say is CB/short wave radio ftw.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281674)

I dropped my land line about 8 years ago specifically because it went out so often. No excuses, either. It wasn't winter, etc. When I called from my cell phone to cancel it, the operator tried to get me to keep it for emergencies if my cell went out, and I just pointed out I was using my cell to cancel because it was out of operation for the (at least) forth time that year that I knew about (since I almost never used it, it could have been much higher). She promptly said, "oh, right" and stopped reading the script and canceled my service.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281930)

I'm sorry to hear that. That's not typical across the US. If the base service simply isn't reliable where you're at, that's certainly understandable. Having said that, for most people, land lands are rock solid and rarely, if ever, go down.

For what its worth, there are literally cities in the US which have worse power service than Iraq during its constant black and brown outs. No exaguration either.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281588)

What good is 911 in an emergency? No...I'm totally, utterly serious. For certain definitions of emergency...

In the event, *YOU* have an emergency that isn't impacting everyone else...okay, you're paying $25/month for what amounts to insurance that you have a land line to dial in if the cell network fails. Fine. Valid case.

In the event there is a local/county/state/national emergency--and you dial 911. Congrats, you're emergency caller number ... let's say 35 in a list of a thousand. The cops will be with you right after they've dealt with the other 34 people coming first. Assuming nobody else in that list is worse prepared than you are and gets triaged up. You're running out of insulin? Sorry, you won't be in a coma for 8 hours--there's elderly living alone and freezing now.

Maybe...if you or someone near you had a heart attack...during a catastrophic blizzard. And emergency services triaged you to the top. Maybe...maybe then you'd have a use case. I'm not convinced.

Of course, all this assumes that local emergency services doesn't pull a Katrina and
    1) flee first
    2) show up and confiscate your supplies
    3) outright rob you and/or shoot you in the back if you resist.

That $25 a month in your landline would probably be better spent on ammunition, candles, blankets, a fire extinguisher, or even a well trained dog.

Just sayin...

I get you're hedging, but I don't think it's a very effective ROI of that $300/year.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281838)

Some of what you said makes sense. Lots of what you said doesn't. Worse, some of what you said is nothing but ignorance.

Phone lines are used to established contact with the outside world. Sometimes its used to get help. Other times its used to assure loved ones you're okay.

You're also down playing the likelihood of cell going down versus land line. I every major emergency I've been in, either wireless went down or was so beyond capacity it was impossible to place a call. Receiving a call are iffy, but possible. Land lines, on the other hand, worked flawlessly so long as the attached phone didn't require power (this is another gotcha which gets lots of people).

As for truly having an emergency, you're just being silly. If I have a dire medical need, getting help is pretty important. Without contact to the outside world, I may not get help at all.

Of course, all this assumes that local emergency services doesn't pull a Katrina and
        1) flee first
        2) show up and confiscate your supplies
        3) outright rob you and/or shoot you in the back if you resist.

This is in fact, the ONLY SMART AND PROPER THING THEY CAN DO. PERIOD. I hate that stupid people have constantly spread so much ignorance about Katrina. Which is smarter? Leaving emergency crews and equipment to be destroyed and killed, effectively ensuring no assistance is available to anyone. Or, move them, as ALL EMERGENCY CREWS ARE TRAINED, to safe areas such that they can return and effectively do their job. The rest did happen but is hyperbole and has no basis in the current discussion. That's what happens when your police force are known to be criminals and the governor spits on the US Constitution.

That $25 a month in your landline would probably be better spent on ammunition, candles, blankets, a fire extinguisher, or even a well trained dog.

Not all. I have ammo, candles, blankets, and fire extinguisher. Using your logic, a dog is not cost effective. Nothing about this need be an either-or. And, candles, blankets, etc., are not going to get you medical care, fire assistance, police, or let your loved ones know you're okay. With your supplies, I'll safely see that I'm warm while I die. Attempting to argue against it is dumb.

And as an aside, my phone line costs $14/mo.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281976)

these "finicky mobile networks" are just that, a network. whereas you are opting for a single point of failure. !better

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281452)

You can dial 911 on any land line without service. If your shit hits the fan scenario is to call 911 you are screwed. Lots of other folks will be calling at the same time.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281538)

I agree with you that 911 shouldn't be your backup emergency plan for bad weather. I must disagree with you about being able to dial 911 on any land line without service. If you have no service on a land line, you have no dial tone. How can you dial 911 with no dial tone?

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (5, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281618)

Try it.

Lines without service in the USA by law have tone and will dial 911 or let you order service. If you dial any other number it tells you that you do not have service and asks if you would like to get it.

The wikipedia article covers it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9-1-1 [wikipedia.org]

The FCC rule can be found
http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Reports/FCC-State_Link/IAD/pntris99.pdf [fcc.gov]

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281868)

You used to be able to dial 911 on any analog cell phone and every cellular provider had to accept the call, even if you weren't paying for service. For some reason, the wireless companies never advertised this fact! I'm not sure how the digital wireless networks handle this, but I suspect they are required to accept everyone's 911 calls too, regardless of whether they are in network or not.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281912)

You can dial 911 on any land line without service. If your shit hits the fan scenario is to call 911 you are screwed. Lots of other folks will be calling at the same time.

But a Stonecutter knows that the real emergency number is 912.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281934)

You can dial 911 on any GSM phone without service, you don't even need a SIM-card. It is required by the standard.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281458)

This call volume doesn't make sense to me. Doing some admittedly very rough estimations: The entire population of the Washington DC metro area is 5.4 million. Now figure all the people that were grouped, either at home or in a car or stuck at work, and I suspect you'd have closer to 2 million groups. Some number of those are going to have a landline available so call it 1.8 million groups. If we assume there is only a single cell phone available per group (obviously a poor assumption) and the fact that Verizon has a nationwide market share of about 30% you come up with 600,000 people relying solely on Verizon wireless for their emergency communication.

That means that 1 out of 60 groups would have had to have been calling 911. Granted, some possibly large number of those calls were probably repeated attempts by the same people but still. Were people really that unprepared for the blizzard? It isn't like no one saw it coming, the news agencies were talking about it days before it arrived and people in DC could have watched all the problems that it had caused throughout the Midwest before it got that far east. Living in the Midwest, with significantly less warning time I can tell you that people did their grocery shopping the days before, stayed home from work (either on vacation or closed businesses), and had some kind of secondary heating source available for at least some of their house. If those numbers are at all accurate then there is a basic failing of our society to take basic and necessary precautions for your own safety. Getting stuck in 12 inches of snow on the freeway during a blizzard is not a failure of anyone but the idiot who got on the freeway in those conditions in the first place.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281576)

I suppose the other questions to be asking are:
  - how much impact did the blizzard have on signal quality?
  - how good was that signal quality to start with?
  - how many of those calls were reattempts?
  - how good is the insulation in the homes in that area?

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281610)

Yep. I know it's old-fashioned but in my whole life I've never seen the landline go out, even during blackouts. Plus it's good for internet backup. (When the DSLAM died, the netzero/dialup still worked.)

>>>we pay ~$25/mo for a land line

Wow. I only pay $10 for unlimited, while my parents have $5 per-call billing (they don't call out much). You may be paying more than you need to.

>>>(not to mention a few inactive ones that can still call 911)

I have an old analog phone from 1999. You think that would still call 911? Last I heard analog is no longer supported? Maybe I'll sell it on ebay (although the glowing green LED is kinda Matrix-like).

>>>if the excrement hits the air circulator

Just send out Twiki with a personal message.
"Biddi biddi biddi - like - far out Buck!"

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281700)

You can still call 911 on an inactive landline.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281742)

If you lose heat or power you call 911? Really? In case people forgot most cities have emergency response centers. These centers are monitoring the power grid among other things. You are calling 911 to report a loss of power that they are already aware of.

If you lost power and a tree fell on your house trapping you inside or under part of the roof. Fine call 911. Just because the power went out? You are calling the wrong people. When I lost power I called the power company. If my heater breaks I call the people I have to fix the heater. I have had elderly neighbors (90+ years old). When we lost power in a winter snowstorm, I called the power company to let them know. I did check on my neighbors. We had oil forced air heat, but no power means no fan to push the air around. We had no heat when the power went out.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281748)

Things like this are one of the main reasons we pay ~$25/mo for a land line despite having 5 active cell phones in the house on 2 separate networks (not to mention a few inactive ones that can still call 911) I know that if the excrement hits the air circulator that I will have more options to reach people than finicky mobile networks.

I can't say if this is true everywhere, but the "inactive" landlines in the houses I've lived at still gave a dial tone. You can still use them to call 911 and toll-free (1-800, 1-888, etc) numbers. You don't have to pay the phone company $25/mo for them. I used to use it for making calls to toll-free support and mail order companies, so I wouldn't rack up as many minutes on my cell phone back when they were relatively expensive.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281814)

Granny has a land line.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (2)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281922)

"Things like this are one of the main reasons we pay ~$25/mo for a land line despite having 5 active cell phones in the house on 2 separate networks (not to mention a few inactive ones that can still call 911) I know that if the excrement hits the air circulator that I will have more options to reach people than finicky mobile networks."

Landlines have very stringent QoS and uptime requirements. With the move to cell phones I'm surprised the ebil gov't hasn't put these job killing requirements on this no-longer-just-a-convenience industry.

Re:Que the "Can you hear me now" jokes (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281936)

Very quickly? I turned off my heat on Sunday and the temp only dropped 1.5 degrees F per hour while I was away. It would become a problem in a day but a call not completing 'right now' isn't a big deal for heat. A MUCH bigger problem would be someone shoveling their driveway and having a heart attack.

At&T (2)

hammer_gaidin (1771328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281232)

I would like to see At&t's dropped call number for the same period.

Re:At&T (1)

Khisanth Magus (1090101) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281278)

Probably less, because more than likely a lot of these are from areas that at&t has spotty coverage at the best of times, so more than likely there wouldn't be any dropped calls because the people with at&t couldn't get a signal to even make the call.

Overloaded? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281252)

Can the 911 processing centers handle that many calls? Anyone have stats on how many calls they normally process? I'm not sure where to look for that data...

15th Post! I would have had first post, but my posts kept being dropped.

Re:Overloaded? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281608)

I was thinking the same thing, 10k calls is a lot for a 911 center to field, even with automated systems for overflow. But it'd be more interesting to know if they were failed to connect calls, or dropped calls. Dropped calls would indicate the center was answering the calls and verizon was cutting them off.

Owell as a lot of posters above have touched on, (911 and cell phones in general) have become quite a crutch for people, encouraging them to do stupid things like drive in blizzards since they have a cell phone and it makes them feel safer and bolder.

People like that, insisting on driving when they flat out tell you NOT to travel, a little frostbite waiting for help might be a valuable lesson to them. Lil bit of Darin at work maybe.

Re:Overloaded? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281804)

Most likely the cellular network software is programmed to give up after a specific time with no answer. So not a hardware problem, more like a problem with software not anticipating really long wait times for a 911 operator to answer. And of course, the system was never tested under such a high load.

Re:Overloaded? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281888)

And of course, the system was never tested under such a high load.

I'm sure that's what this investigation is going to be focusing on. Because yes the are supposed to test it under high load. Obviously this can't be done with actual calls, but they're required to run simulations on very high call volume to see how the system will handle it. You don't just build a critical system that "in theory can meet the design specs" and then not test it.

And if they didn't do that, did it incompetently, or lied about the results, someone's in a lot of trouble.

/. News Network (1)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281258)

Today's top story - adverse weather conditions can negatively affect cell phone reception. In other news, high winds can knock down telephone poles and prevent phone calls.

Clearly we need some sort of communication method that is immune to weather, but what could it possibly be?

Re:/. News Network (1)

grim4593 (947789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281290)

Quantum Entanglement.

Re:/. News Network (4, Funny)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281306)

nuclear detonation facilitated morse code?

I'm sure that would visible at a huge distance, regardless of weather. Sure it'd be a bit harmful to the sender, but nothing is perfect, eh?

Re:/. News Network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281348)

You win!

My profession involves RF communications. Being able to get 90% of digital data through error free on a wireless network is considered excellent. Of course, most modern systems have all sorts of error correction techniques to compensate, but the point is no wireless system will deliver 100% correct digital data the first time. Add weather into the picture (or even solar flares) and that rate drops even further.

Re:/. News Network (1)

buzzsawddog (1980902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281392)

I was thinking smoke signals but.... It might be difficult to light a fire when the wind is blowing. Good news is you could keep warm if its cold.

Re:/. News Network (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281394)

Dig the cables down, like in developed countries?

Re:/. News Network (0, Flamebait)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281536)

Then the cables need to be immune to the fiber-seeking backhoe. Also, environmentalists would much rather accept a large amount of pollution later to prevent a small amount of pollution now.

Re:/. News Network (5, Funny)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281636)

always keep a piece of fiber in your pocket, that way if you get lost or stranded you can just bury it. then when the backhoe comes to dig it up ask the driver for directions/help.

Re:/. News Network (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281564)

The festoons of aerial cabling decorating American towns are one of their most charming features. They really give them a "third world" quality.

Can you.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281288)

Can you Save me now?

Phone Service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281296)

Phone service in USA sucks harder than a Thai hooker.

Re:Phone Service (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281396)

Er, how would you know? (maybe I don't WANT to know!)

New AT&T Commercial: Best service in blizzards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281322)

Best service in blizzards!*

*study conducted in Southern California.

Give us more facts... (4, Insightful)

buzzsawddog (1980902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281360)

Not all dropped calls are created equally... Some areas are just not designed to get cell coverage. It almost makes me wonder if some one is needing to use 911 if they are often in that area. Also what is the ratio of dropped calls to calls made? 10,000 out of 10,000 would be an alarming rate but what about 10,000 out of 1,000,000. How many dropped calls are customer induced? This article tells us nothing...

Re:Give us more facts... (1)

kjdames (588423) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281686)

Also what is the ratio of dropped calls to calls made?

With all due respect, I don't see how that is even relevant. If one dropped call to 911 ended in tragedy, it is alarming. I understand the provider is under no obligation to guarantee 911 service in any particular area, but that is the one service we should be able to depend on. The #1 reason I have a cell phone is in case of an emergency. Obviously I enjoy the other capabilities it gives me, but if the only thing you could use a cell phone for was to call 911, I would still get one for my wife. I have a feeling the majority of (mature) people with cell phones feel the same way.

Re:Give us more facts... (1)

DanTheManMS (1039636) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281698)

Also what is the ratio of dropped calls to calls made? 10,000 out of 10,000 would be an alarming rate but what about 10,000 out of 1,000,000.

10,000 out of 1,000,000 is still a 1% dropped call rate. When I interned at an ISP that also served as a VOIP telecom (not Verizon), anything less than 99.999% availability was investigated and usually reported to the FCC due to legal obligations. A single missed 911 call is a very big deal and I would hope Verizon treats it as such.

AT&T vs Verizon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281376)

OK...here come all the anecdotal stories about this one friend who had an uncle who's girlfriend's cousin had a 911 call dropped by AT&T, so they're not only bad, they're WORSE!

Let em die. (0)

cstanley8899 (1998614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281430)

Well... we have folks who can't figure out the whole milk and bread thing like everyone else seems to be good at. Apparently they are too stupid to live. So it's probably best they starve.

I would like to blame Verizon but... (1)

Falsify (1971140) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281432)

This was a Blizzard of historic magnitude. People should take the warnings they were given and be prepared for the worst in anycase. Cell phone or no cell phone!

Re:I would like to blame Verizon but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281664)

HA, this was no Blizzard of historic magnitude, last year the same area got 2 blizzards back to back for a total of over 2 FEET in under a week. This Blizzard that caused this issue was not quite a foot, they relay do not have much excuse here since from what I have heard the issue has more to do with the lack of redundant fiber links to the 911 ops centers.

AT&T Migrators thoughts irrelevant. (5, Informative)

aburnstine (579050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281462)

It wasn't Verizon Wireless that dropped the calls, it was Verizon Landline that lost 14 CAMA trunks used by ALL wireless carriers. Also, the calls weren't dropped, they got busy signals. Bad, but different and comparing Verizon Wireless to AT&T Wireless are irrelevant to this story.

Yeah, but (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281506)

AT&T does that on almost every clear day, in the Northeast, between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. EST.

Disconnect v Drop (3, Insightful)

UninformedCoward (1738488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281574)

TFA explains first that 10000 calls were dropped but the investigation showed that it was 10000 calls failing to connect. Isn't this two completely different situations? The first being the customer connecting then being disconnected and the second never actually connecting. I could see someone failing to connect at all then attempt to dial multiple times in quick succession...

Ten million calls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281622)

10,000,911 is a lot of calls to drop, but the question is out of how many?

911 call center lines (1)

shoppa (464619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281624)

My impression listening to this boil up in the local media, is that the issue was not just dropped cellphone calls on one cellphone carrier, but rather the routing and concentration of 911 calls into several of the 911 call centers. Essentially the 911 call centers "phone company" is Verizon and some SNAFU between Verizon and the call center was resulting in dropped calls. This is not any new technology problem, going back to the creation of 911 the original PBX's simply melted under any intermittent high call volume.

Re:911 call center lines (1)

inKubus (199753) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281882)

There's no real excuse for this anymore, other than the local carrier (verizon in this case) skimping on hardware. I mean how hard is it to stack a digital trunk? Not hard. But the problem is, like you say, 911 is for personal emergencies and people think they should call 911 in the event of widespread emergencies, which isn't going to help much. The emergency response system is not designed to handle massive events, it costs too much and it wouldn't add much value. In a widespread emergency, you might get help, but only if you're in a well equiped neighborhood. If you live in a poor neighborhood with low property taxes, they probably spend fairly little on fire and police. If you're in the country, you probably have 1 sheriff for a few hundred miles square. Private ambulance companies might think there's a market there or they might not. If not, you're going to be left without help for a while. So, obviously, you need to be able to take care of yourself to a certain extent. Most people in the country know this already and have a woodstove, wood, generator, well, etc. In the city you are part of the system where unfortunately the tax dollars aren't going to cover a hospital bed and fireman for every man, woman and child. Yes, the feds can come with FEMA, where they can basically bring that level of response to a small area, but it costs a ton and it's not something done lightly. Don't count on that for at least a few days. So, what can you do, if you live in an apartment in NYC? Well, you should keep a minimum level of supplies around, especially water. You should replace/rotate them once a year. You should have battery powered lighting equipment. And you should have sleeping bags.

Need more info. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281688)

How many calls of this nature did AT&T drop? T-Mobile? (insert other wireless carrier here)? Is it exclusive to Verizon?

Of these 10,000 calls dropped, how many of them were repeat calls by the same phone? Was it just 100 people that called 100 times before they connected, or 10,000 people only getting one drop each? Or was it just one really bored guy that called in 10,000 times and just wasn't getting a signal?

The article states this happened in Washington's suburbs, was a tower KOed, leaving many without reception, and in turn they all called 911 about it?

I could go on like this for awhile, the point is that this is not enough data to draw any kind of conclusion.

It's happened before (0)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281758)

After the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco, I couldn't make any cell phone calls at all. Why? Everybody in the country was calling into the area resulting in the land line network taking over 2 minutes to put up a dial tone. But the cellular providers timed calls out after 60 seconds with no dial tone!

I wonder why... (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35281828)

I wonder why they bothered putting 10 000 911. "Roughly 10 million" probably would have been fine.

Re:I wonder why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281972)

I get it and that my friend is funny

Re:I wonder why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281978)

I wonder why they bothered putting 10 000 911. "Roughly 10 million" probably would have been fine.

It said 10,000 - 911 calls were dropped, not 10000911 911 calls!

They didn't know it was down! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35281980)

The biggest problem is not that the network went down, but rather Verizon did not realize it was down. Other news stories with more facts listed mention that upon a Sheriff alerting them, they had the network back up in 15 minutes.

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