According to the FCC, wireless networks withstood the derecho better than wired systems. However, cell towers are still reliant on power, so they begin to fail in the hours or days after a storm when batteries begin to give out.
Glenn Gerstell of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in Washington, D.C., who participates in the federal National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) Working Group, says that U.S. companies must take lessons from other countries that are used to facing natural disasters. “In places that are prone to natural disasters, flooding, mudslides; there are telecom operators that have exceptional levels of resiliency, in part because they recognize their vulnerabilities,” says Gerstell. “The lessons are: have several levels of backup and a certain number of days of fuel on site and plan for what to do after the fuel runs out. Companies must not only have backup but have protocols in place to constantly monitor and check the status of systems and have available technicians and spare equipment [to] repair the backup system.”
While new technology will address some of the current problems, that technology will come with new problems. “Technology is fabulous, but you need to have simple backup systems in place no matter what. All companies need simple protocols to address the foreseeable,” says Gerstell.