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With an Eye Toward Disaster, NYC Debuts Solar Charging Stations 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-always-sunny-in-new-york-city dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "When hurricane Sandy pummeled New York City last fall, it left a sizable percentage of the metropolis without electricity. Residents had trouble keeping their phones and tablets charged, and often walked across whole neighborhoods to reach zones with power. Come the next disaster, at least a few citizens could communicate a little easier thanks to 25 solar-powered charging stations going up around the city. The stations—known as 'Street Charge' — are the result of a partnership between AT&T, Brooklyn design studio Pensa, and portable solar-power maker Goal Zero (with approval by the city's Parks Department). The first unit will deploy in Brooklyn's Fort Green Park on June 18, followed in short order by others in Union Square, Central Park, the Rockaways, and other locations. Each station incorporates lithium-ion batteries in addition to solar panels; charging a phone to full capacity could take as long as two hours, but the time necessary for a partial charge is much shorter. But a couple of charging stations also won't help very much if half the city is without power: In order to help mitigate the effects of the next hurricane, New York City major Michael Bloomberg has put forward a $20 billion plan for seawalls, levees, and dozens of other improvements. 'Sandy exposed weaknesses in the city's telecommunications infrastructure — including the location of critical facilities in areas that are susceptible to flooding,' reads one section of the plan's accompanying report. The city will harden the system 'by increasing the accountability of telecommunications providers to invest in resiliency and by using new regulatory authority to enable rapid recovery after extreme weather events.'"
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With an Eye Toward Disaster, NYC Debuts Solar Charging Stations

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  • Fee to use? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by danomac (1032160) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @03:00PM (#44042695)

    Is there a charge to use it?

    If there isn't I can see it being abused by people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Saw one of these today, they were free. They seemed to have IPhone plugs and usb slots (you'd have to bring your own charger cable for micro-usb), but they did look kinda cool, kinda blended in with the park and didn't take up much space.

      • by icebike (68054)

        kinda blended in with the park and didn't take up much space

        So a perfect place to shop for a new phone then?

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Are they waterproof? How does the USB port stand up to the elements? Because I could seriously see this being a problem next time there's a hurricane. It seems like they wouldn't work specifically when you needed them. Flying debris could easily break a solar panel. Also, 25 charging stations in a city of 10 million people seems like it would do little good. It takes over an hour to charge many phones from a wall socket. I could see quite a queue forming if everybody wanted to charge their phones at the
        • by dbIII (701233)

          Flying debris could easily break a solar panel

          Obviously, as seen in tornado aftermath photographs where flying debris has easily broken everything, but unfortunately your post is giving us zero information apart from the chip on your shoulder about solar. It's mainstream now, it's been on pocket calculators for a decade or more FFS - just get over it.

      • I use an old-style "dumb phone" that charges off of a 3mm jack. I wonder if there's an adapter I could use for that. And, before anybody asks, I use a dumb phone because all I want is a phone, not a pocket computer.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Saw one of these today, they were free to use. They seem to cover most charging situations (iphone/micro-usb), and a usb slot for other connectors (if you bring your own cable). They also blended in pretty well with the park and didnt take up too much space.

    • New Yorkers are renowned throughout the world for their courtesy, and politeness. No, wait that is not New Yorkers.
      I expect that there will be a riot around each one of these charging stations. Then someone will get pissed off that they can't charge their phone, and destroy the charging station. "If I can't charge. No one can!"
      I just don't see this working.
      • by 0racle (667029)
        How many riots broke out around gas stations after Sandy? New Yorkers seemed to keep it pretty much together.
        • by hawguy (1600213)

          How many riots broke out around gas stations after Sandy? New Yorkers seemed to keep it pretty much together.

          A gas station has a well defined queue (i.e. the road), an attendant that works there, and people in general are waiting in their cars, separated from each other.

          When hundreds of people crowd around a 4 phone charge station with no obvious queuing order, there's going to much more chance for tempers to flare "Hey! Why are you charging an iPad? You just want to play games but I need to charge my phone to call my mother!" or "Hey, you've been here for an hour already, why don't you unplug and let someone els

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            Have a lot of riots broken out around park benches recently? How many people get punched in the face for sitting on a bench reading a newspaper too long on a crowded morning? Folks generally manage to not go berserk over lack of access to other first-come, first-serve public accommodations; what's so special about these phone charging stations? Anyone on the verge of punching someone over charging time (that they could get at home, work, or a cafe) is likely going to find some other reason to punch someone

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              Have a lot of riots broken out around park benches recently? How many people get punched in the face for sitting on a bench reading a newspaper too long on a crowded morning? Folks generally manage to not go berserk over lack of access to other first-come, first-serve public accommodations; what's so special about these phone charging stations? Anyone on the verge of punching someone over charging time (that they could get at home, work, or a cafe) is likely going to find some other reason to punch someone anyway.

              I was talking more about a disaster situation where hundreds of people will want to charge their phones at a charge station that takes 2 hours to charge 4 phones (or whatever).

              I have seen a fight (or at least yelling and pushing) for a public bench at a concert at a public park were there was a dispute over who was "hovering" over the bench the longest and who was "entitled" to use the bench as the current occupants left the bench.

              • Re:Fee to use? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @05:36PM (#44044281)

                For actual disaster scenarios, there is abundant evidence that ad-hoc groups of strangers often cooperatively self-organize moderately effectively rather than degenerate into massive murderous brawls. There have been lots of disasters that cast groups of hundreds to thousands of people into resource-limited refugee situations; these rarely turn into bloodbath riots --- typically, you'll see far more efficient and egalitarian distribution of resources (regardless of race/gender/socioeconomic status) than you're likely to encounter in "normal" society. You'll always have a few especially obnoxious assholes, but they rarely succeed in much more than turning the crowds' antipathy towards themselves. Rude, self-entitled behavior is far more likely to be tolerated over "frivolous" resources like a concert ticket than over food, water, shelter, and communications in an emergency with a crowd of strangers.

                • by hawguy (1600213)

                  For actual disaster scenarios, there is abundant evidence that ad-hoc groups of strangers often cooperatively self-organize moderately effectively rather than degenerate into massive murderous brawls. There have been lots of disasters that cast groups of hundreds to thousands of people into resource-limited refugee situations; these rarely turn into bloodbath riots --- typically, you'll see far more efficient and egalitarian distribution of resources (regardless of race/gender/socioeconomic status) than you're likely to encounter in "normal" society. You'll always have a few especially obnoxious assholes, but they rarely succeed in much more than turning the crowds' antipathy towards themselves. Rude, self-entitled behavior is far more likely to be tolerated over "frivolous" resources like a concert ticket than over food, water, shelter, and communications in an emergency with a crowd of strangers.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_Hurricane_Katrina_in_New_Orleans#Civil_disturbances [wikipedia.org]
                  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/hurricane-sandy-looting-brooklyn-coney-island_n_2047183.html [huffingtonpost.com]

                  Which big disasters in the USA *didn't* result in looting and other public disturbances?

                  • by femtobyte (710429)

                    Katrina makes a good example. Consider the 26,000 people packed into the Superdome in uncomfortable conditions. During the period, there were a lot of (often highly racist) media reports describing the mass carnage and hundreds of deaths that must be occurring with so many lowlifes crammed together. The final tally from the Wikipedia article:

                    There were six deaths confirmed at the Superdome. Four of these were from natural causes, one was the result of a drug overdose, and one was a suicide.

                    Civil disturbances in the form of violence and looting against private property / stores doesn't particularly support a thesis that people don't band together for egali

            • Hey hey! I punched someone in the face this morning for using a park bench too long! Just 'cause you're a pansy, doesn't mean we all are.

              And I'll have you know I punch people on a regular basis. Often just because they look like they voted Republicunt or Democunt. Oh wait, I just proved your point didn't I.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Easy to solve. Have the chargers put out say 500mAh of charge and then cut off, indicating that it's the next person's turn to get an emergency charge. Not enough energy to run an iPad for very long but it will allow a phone to make a few calls.

            • by femtobyte (710429)

              The efficient solution --- that relies on self-organizing cooperation in the crowd, rather than technocratic intervention, is that while a person has their phone attached to the charger, they let everyone else line up and make 2-minute calls on it. When the phone is fully charged (or they tire of standing around sharing it), they step aside and let someone else volunteer to provide the "community phone." If you don't want to share your phone, then you've got zero priority for the charging station over those

          • Disaster movies have riots and a lot of conflict to make the more interesting to watch. Real disasters end in total strangers digging other total strangers out from under rubble with as much care as if it's their own children under there.
            There's no point mentioning Katrina and New Orleans - people had to work HARD to fuck that one up so badly (guards stopping boatloads of people going in to help, making firemen do a one day course in dealing with the media before they were allowed in - a total pile of hors
        • New Yorkers don't have cars.

      • by msauve (701917)
        "I expect that there will be a riot around each one of these charging stations."

        Because New Yorkers obviously haven't figured out that every car (including taxis) comes equipped with a charging outlet.
        • by hawguy (1600213)

          "I expect that there will be a riot around each one of these charging stations."

          Because New Yorkers obviously haven't figured out that every car (including taxis) comes equipped with a charging outlet.

          I'd imagine that most of the people that own cars (that aren't flooded in underground garages) will have already evacuated from the disaster zone rather than hang around in an area with no electricity, water, or food.

    • Is there a charge to use it?

      If there isn't I can see it being abused by people.

      I suspect that the inconvenience offers a built-in deterrent. To use one, you have to plug something into it, and the design offers no means of securing a device(as the pay-charge stations often do, in the form of little 'lockers' or similar that will hold a cellphone until you return).

      How long are you going to stand around babysitting your phone in exchange for a few watts of free electricity? It's a convenient thing to have if you are taking a walk and need to top up your phone; but that's a pretty lousy

  • AT&T isn't being nice
    being able to charge your phone on the go means you use more data and more people to go over their data plan allowance resulting in overages

    • Oh, AT&T is 'being nice' - it's cheap publicity and unlike the usual bit of AT&T publicity these days, is actually positive. The costs are but a rounding error in some small department and are probably being born mostly by the City. I imagine that NYC isn't charging them a siting fee. The stations will have an AT&T logo - so it's advertising.

      I sure hope the rest of NYCs storm mitigation efforts are a bit more substantive.

  • by Agent0013 (828350) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @03:08PM (#44042775) Journal

    And why do we assume that these solar panel charging stations will still be working in the advent of a disaster? Rain and flooding can short out the batteries. Wind and falling branches can destroy the solar panels. I guess the fact that each is independant will mean that hopefully some of them survived the storm. But it seems to me that rather than spending the money on these storm proof kiosks you could strengthen the infrastructure. So you can charge your iPad, but you have no lights or heat at home, great improvement!

    • by jfengel (409917)

      It can be a great improvement. Letting people know that you're OK, or that you need help, can be a major improvement. You still need cell towers to achieve that, but as with the charging stations, they can be independent of each other. Bringing in a new, temporary one will take less time and skill than fixing a downed power line.

      Strengthening the infrastructure is expensive and hard. Putting up a lot of independent devices is cheap and easy. It's not the complete solution, but it's a feasible step that can

      • by Agent0013 (828350)
        These are very good points. The redundancy is great and I can see the value in that. Plus if they do make them mobile then that should help out a lot. I guess I don't have much faith that they will implement it right, in a way that will be durable and helpful when they continue to fail at the things they are already doing.
    • by linuxpyro (680927)

      This really depends on how they're built, and where they're sited. If they pay attention to those details there's a good chance that something that would take out the power would leave the kiosks usable. Strengthening the infrastructure is good and should also be done, but then it's still a major point of failure. At leas this is some additional redundancy.

      • by icebike (68054)

        They don't have to be pre-deployed either.

        You could put portable ones locked up in fire stations and police precincts and simply drag
        them out and chain them to the nearest standing lamp pole when needed.

    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      Hmm....

      I'm surprised and frankly *shocked* that we're not hearing more calls for them to move the city of New York or at least most of it somewhere safer in the US. I mean, what were they thinking building such a city in such an obviously poor area, near the ocean with rivers around that could so easily flood...and has an past history with hurricanes, that have wiped whole vacation islands away that used to be right there off the coast..?

      I mean..we hear all kinds of talk of this sort when Katrina hit New

      • by icebike (68054)

        Who would want NYC moved to their neighborhood or within 200 mile thereof.
        Raise your hands.

        Anyone? Anyone? Bueler?

        • Who would want NYC moved to their neighborhood or within 200 mile thereof.

          You should be so lucky you m*****f***ing rube.

          P.S. Note, contrary to stereotype, the politeness of the native New Yorker.

      • we hear all kinds of talk of this sort when Katrina hit New Orleans...why aren't we now talking of moving NYC and those cities in NJ built so dangerously close to the ocean. Where are all the calls saying we shouldn't be rebuilding there....etc?

        Because NYC at least starts out above water before the storm. Seriously, I don't mean this as an anti-New Orleans snark, but starting out below sea level doesn't seem like a winning proposition. I know the Dutch manage it, but they don't get many hurricanes. Also half of their country is below water, whereas most of the US, even most of Louisiana, starts out above sea level.

        I don't know what the realistic (including politics) answer is. There are parts of NYC, like the Rockaways, that should never have be

        • Seriously, I don't mean this as an anti-New Orleans snark, but starting out below sea level doesn't seem like a winning proposition. I know the Dutch manage it, but they don't get many hurricanes.

          Ummm, the North sea has huge storms that create exactly the same tidal surges. There was a major disaster from one such storm in the fifties that flooded Holland and London. The Dutch "manage" so well because Western Europe learned it's lessons from that 1950's catastrophe, ever heard of the Thames barrier?

          Suggesting that people simply move displays remarkable ignorance about the scale of the problem. Half of all the people who live in coastal US cities now live below sea level. The problems with coastal

          • Ummm, the North sea has huge storms that create exactly the same tidal surges.

            Ummm, no. The North Sea flood of 1953 had storm surges of 18'. Katrina had surges of 27'.

            ever heard of the Thames barrier?

            Because London is well upstream from the sea, the Thames barrier is only 1700' wide. If that's all there was to it, it'd be easy.

            Half of all the people who live in coastal US cities now live below sea level.

            Cite?

            And if half of all the people who live in coastal US cities now live below sea level, how do they manage it without the sort of levees that surround New Orleans?

            some parts of Mexico city have sunk nearly 100ft in the same timespan!

            Luckily for them they're 7000' above sea level.

            comparing Amsterdam to New Orleans proves beyond all reasonable doubt is that spending billions of tax dollars building and maintain seawalls is by far the cheapest and most humane solution

            It proves nothing because you haven't even offered a guess of the cost of prote

          • by khallow (566160)

            Half of all the people who live in coastal US cities now live below sea level.

            No offense, but I don't count imaginary people.

            If nothing else, what comparing Amsterdam to New Orleans proves beyond all reasonable doubt is that spending billions of tax dollars building and maintain seawalls is by far the cheapest and most humane solution.

            Not at all. Amsterdam is a productive and competently run city. And how humane is it to encourage people to live in dangerous regions with poor systems for protecting those people from the risks?

      • by khallow (566160)
        NYC pays for itself. New Orleans is just an incompetent mess that'll get into another disaster someday and require another bailout. I see no double standard here.
      • If New York is hit again within 20 years, we should seriously consider turning the shores into green zones.

        At the least the government should not be giving money to the same people repeatedly.

        Rare disasters- we share the load.

        Every 20 years-- maybe even every 40 years-- is too common and we need to say, "okay if you want to live there it's okay but there won't be any more disaster aid for this area until 2057".

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      So you can charge your iPad, but you have no lights or heat at home, great improvement!

      Just download a flashlight and real wood fireplace app. Duh.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @03:11PM (#44042805) Homepage Journal

    Seems to me all the disaster film (real and otherwise) I see shows dark, dark clouds over Manhattan.

  • During the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, mobile carriers drove big trucks around the parts of the city without power for people to juice up their phones. We were without power for 16 days, so being able to visit one of the trucks made all the difference :-) I only wish that we could have recharged our laptops, not to use them but because the batteries didn't like being totally flat for a couple of weeks after slowly discharging on standby.
    • by 0racle (667029)
      You can shut your laptop down and remove the battery you know. In fact, you should have.
      • by PRMan (959735)
        You can shut your laptop down and remove the battery you know. In fact, you should have. -- "I use a Mac because I'm just better than you are." If you use a Mac, you should know that Mac batteries aren't removable.
        • by icebike (68054)

          But even Macs shut off, even if Mac users never shut up.

        • If you knew more about Macs you knew batteries are removable.
          Older Power Books could easily exchange batteries, modern ones ofc must be opened ... which is likely what you refer to.

      • I've learned that lesson the hard way. Unfortunately that kind of thing is bottom of the list when you're trying to fix broken pipes, damaged roofs and working out where your next source of heat and clean water is going to be.
  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @03:15PM (#44042851)
    Now if only the cell towers had power...
    • They have Batteries/Generators as well as teams of guys running around keeping them fueled up even during a hurricane. I used to be a part of disaster preparedness at a telco. Often our guys were the ones alerting first responders to problem spots and trapped people. But this is still a stupid idea. The idea that a solar panel would survive weather that a power line couldn't is a joke.

      • by Nukenbar (215420)

        I assume the idea here is the system is off grid for when you have a system wide failure like Sandy. Obviously Manhattan does not have any above ground wires.

        Also, plenty of "towers" in Manhattan are simply antennas bolted to the top of apartment buildings wired to the buildings power with limited batteries.

      • PowerLinePowerLinePowerLinePowerLinePowerLinePowerLinePowerLine
        Panel.
        If the mode of failure is flying debris that little diagram should point out the lack of thought that went into the above post.

        Now I don't mean to imply that the above poster is so incredibly stupid as to not grasp this idea, instead I think they have such little respect for other readers that they think they are so incredibly stupid as to swallow such a stupid and obvious lie. So what motivates such antisocial behaviour? Please enlig
      • The idea that a solar panel would survive weather that a power line couldn't is a joke.
        The world is full with solar panel driven emergency stuff. So it is certainly no joke.
        I asume the panels are in a plastic racks covered with plexi glass to make them resistant against debris. As they are not connected to the grid they have no real problems in a storm.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      The cell towers have battery backup in most countries, and I'd be surprised if the US is different.

      When there were blackouts in the wake of the 11/3 earthquake in Japan the mobile networks mostly stayed up and the service providers sent solar powered emergency chargers to the worst affected areas. People were naturally desperate to contact their families and friends.

  • Solar powered chargers in the aftermath of a hurricane?
    It'll be days after a hurricane before there's a clear day.
    Solar panels work poorly on cloudy days ... those on my roof generate about 5 to 30 percent compared to full sunlight.

    • Bull. In the Northeast, 24 hours after any hurricane, it's bright and clear like nothing happened. Secondly, most solar panels I've worked with still produce power even on cloudy days, they just aren't producing as much power as they could be (most engineers take this into account). PSE&G in NJ has invested a ton of money in solar, and yes, we're in the Northeast, which is cloudy 50% of the year!

      • And if the eye comes over you, it's nice and clear. I remember when Gloria hit Long Island, we went outside during the eye. It was sunny and almost nice outside, although the winds were still very strong.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Funny, I've been through several hurricanes and it's typically great weather the day after it passes. And they do have batteries apparently, if TFS is any indication.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Solar powered chargers in the aftermath of a hurricane?
      It'll be days after a hurricane before there's a clear day.
      Solar panels work poorly on cloudy days ... those on my roof generate about 5 to 30 percent compared to full sunlight.

      Solar panels work way better on cloudy days than you think [vernier.com].
      With a heavy over cast sky, most solar panels still yield 47% of their maximum output.
      With frequent heavy dark clouds, like a impending storm, the yield is 71% on average.

      Its a simple engineering problem to size the solar panel and the batteries for the typical number of consecutive cloudy.

    • You only need to plan for that and size the panels accordingly. Also keep in mind the stations have a battery as storage ...

  • What about the towers and the lines from the towers to the network? Charging stations will do no good if the towers aren't running and can't reach /their/ destination. The only thing wireless about your cell phone is the proverbial last mile between you and the tower.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Asked and answered above.

      Cell towers have backup generators and underground cables. These are a priority item, and there are teams running around refueling the generators.
      Not all towers have to remain standing, you can lose a few and still have service coverage.

  • So now a big public investment in building and maintaining these ridiculous charging stations. In just a few weeks they will all be vandalized. And all of this for people with iPhones that don't want to bother to plan ahead for themselves.

    It would be far wiser to set up public phones, either wired or wireless (or both), that people could use for free in a declared emergency and could use at other times for minimal costs if they are too poor to pay the outrageous cell phone charges in this country. Of cour

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      So now a big public investment in building and maintaining these ridiculous charging stations. In just a few weeks they will all be vandalized. And all of this for people with iPhones that don't want to bother to plan ahead for themselves.

      AT&T is paying for them.

      It would be far wiser to set up public phones, either wired or wireless (or both), that people could use for free in a declared emergency and could use at other times for minimal costs if they are too poor to pay the outrageous cell phone charges in this country.

      Outrageous cell phone charges? A Net10 200 minute 30 day card costs $15 -- 7.5c/minute. Is that outrageous? There are even cheaper deals available if you shop around.

      Of course, in NYC, if you cover a network with ruggedized pay phones. most will be vandalized. And they don't even have interesting parts that the vandals might want, such as fragile expensive solar panels.

      What is a vandal going to do with a broken solar panel that they ripped out of a charging kiosk? Few vandals want the parts they destroy - and if they do, they are no longer vandals, they are thieves.

      • by dkf (304284)

        Of course, in NYC, if you cover a network with ruggedized pay phones. most will be vandalized. And they don't even have interesting parts that the vandals might want, such as fragile expensive solar panels.

        What is a vandal going to do with a broken solar panel that they ripped out of a charging kiosk? Few vandals want the parts they destroy - and if they do, they are no longer vandals, they are thieves.

        Ah, but those solar cells would be awesome surfaces to spray graffiti tags on...

    • by icebike (68054)

      You know regular old dumb cell phones can be charged at these stations as well. You don't have to go all iPhone hater on us.

      And putting a few of these around doesn't cost that much, and maintenance is minimal other than dealing with vandals.
      You don't even have to deploy them till needed, they can be stashed in police an fire stations of at AT&T depots
      trotted out and chained to lamp posts when needed. The vandals would then be beaten to a pulp if they tried
      to mess them up.

      Regular old Fixed line phone b

      • by linuxpyro (680927)

        The other thing is that it's not like one person would have to tie a charging slot up for two hours while their phone charged. If people with dead phones plugged in for a few minutes a lot of them could get just enough of a boost in for a quick phone call or some text messaging. It's not a lot, but for a lot of people it could be great for getting a word out to friends and family. It doesn't have to fully charge everyone's phone to be effective.

  • This is a nice amenity but is not a smart model for disaster preparedness. People should rely on themselves, not a solar charger that may or may not work and may or may not be available. I always have three phone batteries good for over a week of normal use, charged and ready to go. This cost me $22. You can buy 10,000mAH external batteries / chargers for cheap as well. If having a cell or tablet available is important part of your disaster preparedness plan, you should not rely on stuff you don't own th
    • by icebike (68054)

      you should not rely on stuff you don't own that may not work and may be in use by 7,000,000 other people.

      So why bother with all those batteries then? After all, those cell towers that you don't own won't necessarily be working either.
      And those same 7 million people will be contending for them as well.

      You can not live in a large city AND adopt a dooms-day prepper mentality. It makes no sense.
      By all means spend the money for an external battery, but sooner or later even THAT will be exhausted.
      Some Sandy victims were out of power for many weeks.

      • "After all, those cell towers that you don't own won't necessarily"

        True, but most cell sites are rigged with backup power and have some pretty hardened network connections. Unless something pretty severe happens they'll probably remain functional, and portable cellsites are becoming commonplace for disaster response. While you of course cannot rely on them and you will of course have difficulties connecting they will probably be the only form of communications system available in a dense urban environment

      • by RevDisk (740008)
        Er. Not every emergency is doomsday. An emergency could be a very nasty water leak in your apartment. Or a winter storm knocking out power in your neighborhood. Or an idiot with a backhoe.

        Life doesn't have to be either/or. Nothing wrong with being mildly prepared, or moderately. I'm not really a "prepper". I hike/camp. I carry slightly more medical equipment than most, partly because I have a background in it. Mostly just because I feel like doing so. It has come in handy.

        Those external batteries are
  • I think they are going about this the wrong way. MintyBoost devices (or an imported similar device) and a brick of AA batteries, in your closet beforehand. Banking on everyone to be mobile and these stand being accessible during a crisis is not realistic.

  • Is it me or does that seem overkill? I went to Radio Shack and an autoparts store to buy three parts. A battery holder for 8 AA alkaline batteries, a 9V power lead (it's at 12v though), and a cigarette lighter adapter. I already had a car charger for the phone with a USB port on it. Wired the three together and I have a nice compact little power brick capable for recharging my iPhone and variety of other USB or 12V devices for a few days before the batteries go down. I use it camping too. $2.99 + $2.00
    • by RevDisk (740008)
      I keep a car starter battery in my trunk. Bit more expensive, but that'll charge a cell phone for several weeks.
  • From TFA:

    The stations will allow a user to fill a smartphone in two hours, or grab a 30 percent charge in 30 minutes.

    That's a long time to have to hang around an open-air charging station.

  • by asm2750 (1124425) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @05:35PM (#44044257)
    If you need power for your cellphone that bad get one of these http://solarjoos.com/ [solarjoos.com] or one of these http://mylimeade.com/ [mylimeade.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Rather than hoping that the government sets things up properly, hoping that these stations work after the disaster, hoping that no gangs think of controlling access to these stations "for a small fee", etc., etc., get your own solar powered charging station.

    http://us.waka-waka.com/

    Then you can charge to your heart's delight, as long as there's some sun...

  • The microUSB charger port on phones take 5 V. AA batteries are 1.5 V. Put four of them together and you have 6 V - more than enough to charge a phone. A phone battery is about 3.7 V and 1600 mAh, or 21,000 Joules. Four alkaline AA batteries are 4 * 1.5 V * 750 mAh, or 16,000 Joules. The heavy-duty ones are twice that. So they can completely or almost completely charge your phone.

    They're a helluva lot more practical - you're not tied to the charging station for 2 hours. More durable - AA batteries ar
  • Drive less, walk more. Dry clothing outdoors as opposed to in an electrical drier.

    Wear shorts in hot weather and consequently use less air-conditioning.

    Buy smaller houses or apartments.

    Eat mostly vegan food.

    And there will be less hurricanes, as less energy released into atmosphere. Those that come will be less severe.
    • by RevDisk (740008)
      "Less energy released into atmosphere". Hurricanes' source of energy is water vapor which is evaporated from the ocean surface. If you said "less global warming means less hurricanes", you'd be on firmer ground. I actually do environmentalism that makes sense, because I spent time in former Soviet countries and saw what communism did to the land over there. Most Westerns have virtually no idea what real pollution is. Not trying to pick on you specifically, but people that take a pseudo religious approach t
      • by Max_W (812974)
        People used to have as a popular entertainment watching how lions eat prisoners of war on an arena. Sometimes it was hundreds of lions eating thousands of people shows.

        But this attitude, the natures of people themselves did change.

        Overeating unhealthy food, turning cities into enormous parking lots, in general, - leading environmentally excessive lifestyles is the new challenge of humanity. The alternative is a catastrophe. It started to happen already, say, in Louisiana, in Fukushima, etc.

That does not compute.

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