NJ city boosts communications resiliency

NJ city boosts communications resiliency

After Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast in 2012, the landline and wireless communication infrastructure -- including telephone, television and internet -- suffered a major breakdown, creating a barrier to emergency response and recovery for residents and towns.  But now officials are working to take one of New Jersey’s most vulnerable towns and turn it into the country’s first resilient city.

Sea Bright, N.J., saw its business district destroyed by Sandy, suffering more than $391 million in storm-related damage.  The “Resilient City” plan for Sea Bright will help to prepare for future storms, officials said, and serve as a model for other municipalities to do the same.

As well as strengthening the transportation and energy infrastructures, the city is working with Verizon to deploy new communications infrastructure including a network architecture that includes smaller nodes, rather than the traditional large towers.  These nodes bring more redundancy and should better withstand major storms.

The new wireless infrastructure is based on a distributed system that puts antennas 25-55 feet off the ground, whether on buildings or built into lighting throughout the city. This elevated locations will help if Sandy-level flooding ever returns to the city.

In addition to adding resiliency, these nodes also add everyday capacity, which Sea Bright struggles with in the summer months when its population swells with tourists. Verizon has proposed installing 14 nodes in Sea Bright, and expects to search out viable locations in the coming weeks, according to  Steve Weiss of Verizon’s network team.

Other cities have also taken advantage of these nodes for reasons unrelated to flooding. The common denominator in all of their deployments, Weiss said, is the need for more capacity. Downtown locations, stadiums, any place that is densely populated could benefit from the extra capacity these provide, he said.

A new cell tower, referred to as a “macro site,” is also in the works. It will have back-up battery and generator supplies; distributed antenna system nodes will not, but “that doesn’t mean in the future there won’t be some sort of back up for these nodes,” Weiss said.

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.)  praised the plan.  “From my first moments on the ground touring the damage Sandy wrought in New Jersey, I have remained committed to helping our communities rebuild and better prepare for future storms like Sandy,” he said in a statement. “We learned that no silver bullet can prepare us for any emergency.  But, with the public and private sectors working together, we can strive to make sure the citizens of Sea Bright and all of New Jersey are safer next time disaster strikes.”

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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