No, it is unlikely that this writer can make such go away, seeing as his own neighborhood was slashed and gashed by a series of wind furies only about a year ago. However, the commonality of this experience does raise awareness and concern. Nor will this be about when spring tornado season starts in the middle of winter — for the second straight year — maybe there is something to this global warming stuff.
And it is absolutely not about revealing to one and all, as one reader wrote to beg me to do while Adairsville was still trying to pick up the pieces this past Wednesday, that the Chinese have the ability to control the weather and have been using it as a weapon of war to weaken the United States. They were behind Hurricane Sandy as well, it seems. If for no other reason than not knowing what secret defense plant or drone airfield there is in Adairsville to make it a special target, the writer discards that theory.
On the other hand, perhaps the Chinese were aiming for me again — had a tree in my dining room the last time they apparently tried — but they missed.
This weak attempt to bring a smile to tear-stained faces and nervous minds over, let us turn serious.
FIRST, THE NEW radio system that allows all public-safety and emergency workers to communicate without intermediaries or “dead spots” plainly was activated just in time for this latest example of the unexpected arriving. The initial successful test of the $26.7 million communications network resulting from taxpayer approval of the 2009 special-purpose, local-option sales tax (SPLOST) was comparatively small and ordinary: searching for, finding and rescuing a 65-year-old woman lost in the Huffaker Road forest. The ability to better coordinate, it is probably safe to assume, had something to do with finding her in less than 10 hours.
Then, five days later — torrents, high winds, tornado overhead, trees tumbling, flooding, road closings, rescue calls.
In times of trouble or just high risk, it really becomes important to know what is going on around you, and the weather alarms by TV and radio are but the beginning of the effort that should be made. There is a huge, huge difference between reading about what happened after the fact on the next day and hearing about what actually hit the next block a couple of minutes ago.
That is why, when an alarm is sounded, the writer turns on his “police scanner.” It’s a lifelong habit, no doubt caused by being a journalist even though not acting as a “police reporter” for about 50-plus years. There are also good family protection reasons for such a habit. Moreover, it is a hobby area of not inconsiderable size.
Except, this time my actual scanners — I have two, one a base station and one a handheld portable that works even when Georgia Power becomes a rumor right before the funnel arrives — were basically expensive paperweights. The new Floyd County high-tech communications system is what is known as a “trunking” one that sort of uses a variety of the old single frequencies and splatters stuff around in a shared fashion, making it impossible to listen to both sides of a conversation as before, or even one side. This makes older listening equipment obsolete.
THE NEW system is supposed to be way faster and efficient, plus is based on “talk groups” with specified access for some and not others where, apparently, if I were to say “Go!” that word is sent to the radio and if I add “Dawgs!” it goes to the TV set and one needs a speaker connected to both at the same time to get the message. This system already has 18 of those talk groups set up.
Something like that anyhow, as the writer makes zero claim to being an expert on such matters or anything “technical.” If I hit a light switch I want the dark to go away, and I don’t really need to know the science behind it. Scanners are tools just like hammers, but I prefer nail guns because my thumb can’t get in the way.
Now, there are new “trunking scanners” that can keep up with this next-generation stuff but they run a minimum of about $500 apiece. Maybe prices will become sane in the future but even now there’s only one brand/model that is smart enough to find all the chatter by itself without major human assistance and tinkering. I’m not going to spend $500 or $1,000 on an umbrella just because it rains every once in a while.
However, there is a solution that is mildly adequate that was put to personal use this past Wednesday and should be shared. Also, with all the current emphasis paid to local Emergency Management Agency operations (new headquarters just dedicated) a word to the wise should suffice: this could be made available in an even-better format to local taxpayers by “central command.”
Simply, it is both cellphones and the Internet. Nor, as some in my profession advocate, is this suggesting that “tac channels” (tactical teams closing in on drug dealers and terrorists) be monitored by the public for obvious personnel safety reasons. Of course, they should be recorded and available at later times, just as 911 transcripts.
MORE TO the immediate point, even before “trunking” police/fire talk was being streamed to the Internet — or even to “smartphones” — by individual hobbyists with the savvy and equipment. Apparently it takes nothing more than having the right scanner and an audio upload link to the Internet.
In other words, “there’s an app for that.” A lot of them, actually, of various quality and somewhat differing content plus usually working on, say, an iPhone but not an Android, or vice versa. Many of them are free. (The writer’s decent experiences have been with one known as “Emergency Radio.”)
In my case, as the red line on radar bore down, the iPhone came on as a substitute for a handheld scanner that didn’t have to rely on Georgia Power to work. That was in the nick of time, too. After Floyd abandoned its old radio system that link, more likely fed to the Internet by a savvy citizen than a public agency, went dead for a couple of days before coming back as good as before. Somebody bought a new scanner and “shared” just a day before the storm hit.
Not only that, but similar feeds are available on every computer browser. For Floyd County, go to www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/?actioncwp&ctid439.
The radioreference web site is a great overall place to learn more about all this sort of stuff. By the way, many neighboring communities and counties can similarly be eavesdropped upon and are easily found on the site’s database.
Which is not to say this is actually the same thing. The new system sounds a bit choppy and broken up without the former ability to aim home antennas, and some of the “trunking” was somebody using a backpack instead. Still, one hopes that Emergency Management will consider making the same thing available, perhaps with links/feeds on the www.romefloyd.com website. The Code Red telephone warning setup is nice but more is required.
ALSO, WHEN using my original scanners, more than police/fire was monitored in general emergencies. The Internet neither yet has, nor is able to “scan” a bunch of different work groups and jump from one to the other depending if anyone is talking or not. Thus missing were services now in different work groups such as road/water crews or hospitals. When tornado/snow storms or similar hit, it is good to be able to find out what roads are in the process of being cleared or sanded.
For example, my homestead has one way in and only two ways out of the general area. If I need a gallon of milk or to have my arm broken by a falling tree set, is there a way that is open? My scanner used to help figure that out.
Also monitored were private entities such as Georgia Power crews (are they getting close to my neighborhood?) and even the newspaper’s circulation department — when will my paper ever get here? And if there is a black bear wandering around along the nearby river, it would be nice to be able to keep up with the progress of Animal Control on the hunt with its tranquilizer gun.
Knowing what is happening around you can be very, very important at certain times. That shouldn’t be either eliminated or diminished. Those in charge are encouraged to give everybody a “scanner” to monitor the public services that they pay for, just as they did the new radio towers.
So, either send this taxpayer a check for $500 to buy a fancy new scanner or put everything on these particular public airwaves on all the other more-accessible public radio spectrums as well.