The danger of wildfires in California is well-known, but a recent study found that cell towers in other locations across the United States are also at high risk for fire damage. The University of Wisconsin-Madison published its findings and identified conditions where towers may be in peril. The study was conducted with the support of The National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security and determined that one in four Americans could be affected by a cell tower outage caused by a spreading fire.
“The areas that need the most attention are those that are where urban growth has gotten very close to forests and other sources of fuel for wildfires,” said Paul Barford. Barford is one of the co-authors for the study and directs UW–Madison’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. “The service providers are very interested in having their infrastructure available in those areas, because that’s what their customers are asking for. But those are also places where there’s the greatest risk of damage because of fires.”
The researchers studied the history and path of wildfires and mapped the results. The resulting charts show that 430,000 cell network transceivers are in areas that the U.S. Forest Service considers at moderate or high wildfire risk. Six states have over 5,000 transceivers in high risk areas. The states are California, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.
“We think of the wildfire threat as being concentrated only in the western part of the United States,” said graduate student Scott Anderson. “But we did see that there are areas that are at risk outside of the West, including the southeastern United States, especially in Florida, and even up around Philadelphia.”
“Cell towers in high-risk areas all need to have backup power, battery backup or generator backup, that can enable them to continue to operate even if fire cuts off their primary power,” said Barford. While the direct impact of a wildfire is crippling, the subsequent power outages are a matter of deep concern.
“One of the ways of communicating that risk to people in these fire-prone areas — to send emergency notifications that say a fire is on the way, everyone in this area must evacuate — is through the cellular infrastructure,” Anderson said. “If those messages can’t go through because of disruptions in the cellular network, that can have life or death consequences.”
The post Wildfires Aren’t Just a Danger to West Coast Towers appeared first on Inside Towers.