By Rodney Paul, Kensington Resident
As we consider the AT&T proposal to improve cell phone coverage in Kensington, I hope residents will keep in mind the important role mobile communications can play when facing emergencies resulting from earthquakes and fire.
I’m familiar with the argument that the health impact of cell phone signals is not fully known, and I have heard some in our community state that a major health crisis could one day result from their use.
But after two decades of near ubiquitous use, we don’t see clusters of victims near cell phone transmission sites or other clear evidence of this threat.
While it’s possible that could change in the future, so far the risk from cell phone transmissions is poorly defined and seems unlikely to be a major public health risk.
In contrast, we all face a serious threat from earthquake and fire. Our community sits astride a major seismic fault. In nearby communities, we’ve seen fatalities from earthquake and fire in the not-distant past.
Addressing these risks should be a top priority, and having strong communications could be critical to a successful response. With spotty cell phone coverage in many areas of Kensington, adding new transmitters makes a lot of sense.
Given this, we should support the effort to improve cell coverage in Kensington. We also need to ask the providers what they can do to ensure continued service in the event of an emergency. An important lesson from Hurricane Sandy is the need to have a decentralized infrastructure with redundancy and multiple fail points.
We should insist that the new transmission towers be able to function independently and have sustained backup power that will allow their continued use in the event of a disaster.
Improving our cell phone infrastructure is just one of many steps we must take to protect our community from disaster. The AT&T plan is a step in the right direction and should have our support.