Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hidden Fuel Reserves

They're out there.

Can you spot them?

Most people think of gas stations as places to get fuel. The more creative will recognize other vehicles as a possible source. Most of these will be found along the beaten path. The major roadways, and population centers.

But let us say you're traveling the back roads to avoid the milling and violent crowds attempting to flee whatever has befallen society.

Here's a couple of photos to get you started thinking.

Some of you are wondering exactly WTF is this? Well, it is a remote cell site for one of the large cell phone companies out there. This one is located in the California Delta region. There are many of these sites scattered throughout the Delta.

See that?

210 glorious gallons of diesel thoughtfully suspended about 24 feet in the air to make siphoning easy indeed. All that is standing between you and it is a chain link fence and a padlocked gate.

If you're wondering what a huge generator and all that fuel is doing 24 feet in the air, this area has seen serious flooding before.

As cell phone service has spread across the globe, even in some really remote regions, a reliable method had to be developed to power the remote sites since local power can't always be relied upon. That usually means a backup generator and a store of fuel.

My understanding is that these sites are equipped with a bank of backup batteries that will service the site for a period of time before the generator kicks on. I've never been able to find out exactly how long the batteries will last before the generator starts, although if I understood the guy I was talking to, the generator will recharge the batteries and then shut off again.

TracFone coverage map

Sprint PCS coverage map

As one can see from these maps, coverage of cell networks reaches into nearly every part of the continental United States. Now, cell providers often have agreements between themselves that allow customers of rival networks to access their network towers for a fee or reciprocal privileges.

TracFone rents bandwidth from most cell providers, hence you can see their coverage is fairly extensive. Yet, Sprint offers coverage in areas that even TracFone can't service.

You'll notice both providers have a huge hole in the coverage of the state of Nevada. There's a reason for that. That area is known as The Nevada Test And Training Range, part of which is the infamous Area 51. Hopefully you won't be bugging out across the worst part of The Great Basin Desert.

In remote areas where the landscape is relatively flat (think Kansas), cell sites are usually no more than 23 miles apart to maintain adequate overlapping coverage, and can be as close as 3 miles depending on terrain. They are usually located off of established roadways or fire trails that are accessible even during the winter. The entrances may be gated or disguised to discourage casual trespassers.

Inside cities, they can be as close as less than a quarter mile due to the signal attenuation caused by the structures in the area. But we're not worried about that, because you ain't there. I hope.

As you are out and about planning your escape, hunting, backpacking, or whatever outdoor activity you enjoy, you might want to look along your way for cell sites and make note of their locations.

Cell site planners have become more crafty in attempting to make their towers blend into the surroundings, and disguise them to appear like local trees. So, keep your eyes open.


Ken said...

...good tip,i know where two of those stations are,a few hundred gallons of diesel fuel could come in handy huh?...

HermitJim said...

You know, I never thought about these places as a fueling station before!

That one disguised as a tree is pretty well hidden! Sneaky!

Thanks for the info!

Mayberry said...

Oh, there's lots more places like that. Many commercial buildings have backup generators. Hospitals. Most state parks have bulk fuel, gas and/or diesel. National parks too. Municipal poo poo plants and lift stations. Drainage pump stations. TV stations and transmission towers. Trucking and construction companies. I'm sure there's more...