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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Island AUXCOMM group thankful for new donation to project, to all who donated and for great coverage

September 28, 2023
By Boca Beacon Reader

To the Editor:

I’m very glad to advise you that in the wake of Friday’s comprehensive Beacon update on the Auxiliary Emergency Communications Project, a concerned private citizen donated $20,000. That donation reduces the remaining amount needed to $59,065 of the original $305,065 goal.  

It is the first donation from an individual – I’m confident more will follow.

I note again, with deep appreciation, the earlier and significant gifts from the Boca Grande Disaster Relief Fund, The Boca Grande Woman’s Club and Boca Grande Charities, Inc. Those giftts, along with the Beacon’s coverage thereof, has greatly accelerated the funding for this vital project.

Considerable final engineering, equipment delivery, and other high priority project installation steps are underway. I will have a more detailed update on that effort for the Beacon in the future.   

When the Beacon first published news of the lead $50,000 gift from the Boca Grande Disaster Relief Fund on August 18, I began further online research as to what can cause cell phone service to go down. We have learned a lot already from Hurricane Ian, the very recent Hurricane Idalia and causes of widespread cell and power outages during the Maui fires.   

Your August 18 story noted cell service problems experienced after Hurricane Irma in 2017. When the initial $50,000 was donated I wanted to be prepared to make the case from open sources that the AUXCOMM system was a critical necessity, not a discretionary luxury. We have done much clearly-detailed research regarding the many ways cell service can fail across a region. 

Simply put, it is not necessary for cell towers to fall for service to fail. Communications we depend on in daily life are far more fragile than is generally known.

Much of that research is focused on Southwest Florida and, for Idalia, north Florida and south Georgia. This includes many low profile and interesting details of what happened on Sanibel and Captiva from a cell service, bridge failure and emergency communications for first responders’ perspective.   

I note that the situation post-Ian was extremely severe in Central Florida as well. This was in great part due to flooding, particularly in Orange and Seminole Counties where they had not experienced since settlement in the early 1800s.

In all, that is why the new AUXCOMM system is designed to be triple redundant, reliable and resilient.   Readiness will be much greater for another storm (or any other major communications failure, for any reason). I also believe that the system will present a fine model for near off-island and other Florida communities.

Finally, thanks for the thorough coverage on Friday.   Especially for the system highlights section.

There will be more information to come as elements of the system sequentially reach operational status.  

Best regards,

George “Bo” Hamrick

Project Coordinator for BGFD

Member, Island EOC Emergency Communications and Interoperability Working Group