Jan Westmore: Spotty cell service a danger to community members
Well, Nevada City and Grass Valley are very proud of defeating the state legislature on its plan to give free rein to AT&T and Verizon to build towers wherever they will.
Unfortunately for the citizens of these communities, who have scarce cell reception today, there is no urgent plan to ameliorate the communication problem.
How can we all get notified of impending danger? We know from this month’s horrendous fires that landline service cannot be relied on for emergency communication. Trees downed, power poles down, and down went traditional telephone service. Many young folks don’t even own landline service anymore. So emergency broadcasts were sent via cellular, but, of course, there is no proliferation of AT&T and Verizon towers to reach all the affected citizens.
Just try to make a call in downtown Nevada City for example. Good luck.
The consequences last week were that many people had to rely on someone knocking on their door to arouse them so they could flee. Some never knew. Some died as a result. Just ask residents in Rough and Ready how they felt about the notification system. And some of those knocking on doors weren’t neighbors, but police officers and deputies who could have been helping in other ways if we had a workable emergency notification system.
We urgently need a plan to allow a sufficient number of cell towers for both primary carriers to cover all our area so all our citizens are protected.
Yes, we love our quaint old-town atmosphere, so we have to be creative and work with the utilities to meet our goals, but let’s not spend months debating in committees. We need to move quickly. The next firestorm could be downtown Grass Valley or Nevada City or both. We know we are vulnerable. There are known arsonists and homeless folks that repeatedly start fires in our parks and woods. We arrest them, say, “No, no. Don’t do that,” and then release them again so they can set more fires.
This exact scenario occurred just last week behind Pioneer Park by a known arsonist who has already been arrested more than a dozen times. Is she in jail? Is she in a mental hospital? No.
What is it going to take to stop this danger? And, by the way, if I had been walking by and pulled out my cell phone when I spotted the fire, I would have had no access to 911 to even notify the fire department. Fortunately, someone with a landline was awake in the middle of the night and called it in. We were lucky once more.
We have a crisis situation here in Nevada County. Let’s show some action and creativity.
Jan Westmore lives in Nevada City.
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