Learnings from the WEXHEgen dam project are plentiful. One of those is the use of technology. In fact, the dam uses two-way radios to communicate with on-site personnel and distant contacts. A second learning from the WEXHEgen dam project lesson is that the dam is a complex structure made up of many different components. Each of those components was designed to function as part of a system. And one component of the system is weather-modification technology.
The radios in use at the WEXHEgen dam are General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) radios. These radios have been in use for decades, but they are relatively new in size and capabilities. They use transceivers (bands of frequencies) that can be scanned by a computer and pick out specific information. The scan takes data packets and translates them to voice. The computer can then play the converted voice back to the radio’s speakers, or it can send the information to a speaker that reading it for the receiving party.
The big benefit of the GPRS systems is their capability of being used as walkie-talkies. This means that the radios can be used to send and receive communications during a flood, or to notify others of safety concerns when they are near the area of the flood. Additionally, as a backup for cell phone service, the radios make excellent base stations, especially in rural areas where cell towers have been destroyed by the flooding.
It is important to understand that despite the many capabilities of the radios, they were not originally designed to be communication devices. In the beginning, they were just used to control the water supply. If a power outage were to occur, the radios would allow emergency authorities to quickly communicate to the general public. However, because of the need to keep the dam operational, this function was later added to the list of capabilities.
Because of the need to maintain a constant water flow to the dam, everyday life in and around it has changed. The original plans called for a single-stage switchboard, which meant that there would be one station to take calls and another to broadcast the message to the public. The GPRS systems have since been changed to include a two-stage system. Now, there is a primary transmitter that broadcasts a primary message to the flood plain and a second, smaller transmitter to be held on the premises of the customer. In most cases, there will also be an emergency phone number programmed into the device. These devices are now able to handle two simultaneous calls.
Another major benefit to these communication systems comes from the fact that they are very easy to use. They are designed with simple controls, which means that even those with little or no experience with technology can start communicating immediately. In addition, because the units are so simple, they require little maintenance. Many of the models utilize a rechargeable battery to keep them operating. The recharging process simply requires plugging them into an outlet.
There are many other benefits as well, however. For one, these radios are able to communicate with multiple users at the same time, but they are unable to pick up a call from a cell phone or pager. In addition, they are unable to handle faxes or voice mail efficiently. In order to make up for this communication failure, the GPRS systems use a PC-based software package that allows them to receive faxes and voice mail messages.
When considering communications from the Wexhegen Dam, it is important to remember that the GPRS products are not meant for personal use. They are meant to provide basic emergency communications during a flood. Additionally, they can help flood survivors communicate with rescuers. If used properly, they can help save lives!