CGC #1093

by CGC on October 11, 2011



                        THE CGC COMMUNICATOR

                              CGC #1093

                     Tuesday,  October 11, 2011


                  Robert F. Gonsett, W6VR,  Editor

     Copyright 2011, Communications General® Corporation (CGC)



  The widespread power outage on September 8, 2011 gave us an 
unprecedented opportunity to see how the San Diego County - Imperial 
County Regional Communications System (RCS) would behave when 
confronted with the total loss of commercial power.  The RCS is a 
large 800 MHz trunking system that spans two California counties and 
handles critical public safety radio communications such as police 
and fire.

  Last week, the RCS office released its Preliminary Report on system 
performance during the power outage.  The report (available at the URL 
below with specific transmitter site names deleted for security reasons) 
gives us our first real look at system-wide behavior during the power 
outage.  We believe that the issue of power generator reliability is one 
of the key questions that will come out of the event.  Without reliable 
long-term backup power, critical sites will go dark.

  In the RCS Preliminary Report, four generator failures were identified.  
At one site, the landlord-maintained generator failed to start; at another 
site, the generator shut down from over- heating after 20 minutes of 
operation; at yet another site, the generator shut down after 21 minutes 
of operation and was said to have "overheated and was experiencing low 
oil pressure;" and at a fourth site, the generator shut down from 
overheating after five hours of operation -- a failed water pump apparently 
at fault.

  The vast majority of RCS generators use propane fuel; the remainder use 
diesel.  The landlord-maintained generator that failed to start is propane 
fueled; of the three overheated generators, two use propane, one uses diesel.  
You can see how the RCS office handled each of these emergencies by reading 
their report.  In our opinion, RCS staff performed very professionally under 
extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

  One of the big questions will be how to improve power generator reliability -- 
and that is a question that will be shared by many other entities as well.  Are 
we testing our generators often enough (at least once a month)?  Are they run 
long enough?  Are they occasionally tested under full load with transfer switch 
activation?  Is there sufficient fuel on-site to cover a prolonged power outage?  
Are the generators regularly serviced by professionals?  Are there enough fixed 
and portable generators located where needed?  Are there any air quality 
regulations that would inhibit sufficient periodic testing to ensure 
reliable operation?  Should rule waivers be sought if air pollution 
restrictions are onerous?

  We understand that RCS sites operate under the same strict air pollution 
regulations that sometimes hamper adequate generator testing at broadcast 
stations (regulations vary across the state).
Summarizing a discussion at the recent RCS Board of Directors meeting, the 
generators at RCS comm sites, PSAPs, hospitals, police stations, fire stations, 
essential media outlets, etc. all operate under the same air pollution 
limitations that prevent adequate testing for public safety needs.

  If mission-critical installations are prevented from doing adequate testing, 
more generator failures are bound to occur.
Perhaps statutory exemptions or rule changes are needed to allow more/longer 
tests.  The next catastrophe could be a major earthquake.  If roads are 
impacted to the point where service personnel cannot reach failed generators, 
critical sites will go dark.

  Following is the RCS office's paper entitled, "Preliminary
Report: RCS Performance During September 8, 2011 Regional Power Outage."  
Congratulations to the many skilled individuals who pooled their talents 
and resources to compile this report on short order.

  Please send any comments to sblodgett(at) for posting 
on the Tech Letters Website.  And please don't forget to reassemble Steve's 
disguised address by replacing "(at)"
with the @ symbol.



  You may view comments posted on the Tech Letters Website by visiting the 
following URL:



  The FCC is developing e-reporting for the Nov. 9 national EAS test.





  FEMA IPAWS Special Event:  Nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test 
Preparations and Procedures - A Year in Review - October 13th  12:30 - 
2:00 PM Eastern.

  Join us on October 13th at 12:30 PM [Eastern time] for the next webinar 
before the Nationwide EAS Test to discuss final preparations, procedures, 
and expectations.  This discussion will focus on a year in review of the 
national dialogue on the EAS, aggregate Test information and resources, 
as well as address questions that still remain from the EAS Community.

  Discussion topics include:

    o  First Version of the EAS Best Practices Guide

    o  Review of National Public Radio (NPR) Participation

    o  Review of Monitoring Assignments and Best Practices

    o  Review of Informational Materials and Resources

  Event Details:

  What: Nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test
  Preparations and Procedures - A Year in Review

  When: Thursday, October 13; 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM (Eastern)

  Where: Microsoft Live Meeting 2007 (This link will be active the morning 
of October 13th)
- Please note that if you have Live Meeting Client correctly installed, 
you do not need a pass code or username (Live Meeting instructions

  Want to contribute ideas for the EAS Best Practices Guide and Nationwide 
EAS Test Informational Toolkit?  Go to A National Dialogue on the Emergency 
Alert System (  
For official information on the Nationwide EAS Test, please visit the FEMA 
IPAWS website:
Want an invite?  Email FEMA IPAWS at:



  The CGC Communicator is published for broadcast engineering
  professionals in so. California by Communications General®
  Corporation (CGC), consulting radio engineers, Fallbrook, CA.

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