I think you will find a lot of agencys or EMCOMM groups using packet. It's easy to use, has the ability for far more range and uses VHF/UHF radio which does not need a 100% clean path between the two antennas and I could be wrong, but doesn't air quality have something to do with distance between dishes or antennas? If so, something like a huge fire will cause many problems. That and I have read that 20 miles is about the max with what people are using today. Packet does not have that problem.
In our area, EMCOMM centers, hospitals and most EMCOMM hams have packet and know how to use it and are ready to respond. You have to remember, we are the secondary communication (in most cases) and many times handle the less important traffic, but depending on what happens, at some point may be the only communication.
The radios, packet, all necessary equipment and antennas are already set up, just waiting for an operator if needed. Until digital becomes more mainstream, far less expensive, all commercially available and reasonable in price, you are not going to see much of it in use. This could be some years away.
We have a digipeater at one of the repeater sites with great range that is backed up by a generator and very large propane tank for extended run time. An eighty mile range is not a stretch and it's omnidirectional, you don't need a separate link to send the same info to multiple locations, then cost.
Many times the higher tech stuff works well after proper set up, but there is a much smaller pool of people who know what to do when something goes wrong and if they are not set up the same way, good chance you'll have problems. There are plenty of hams that can keep packet up and running.
Mesh is still somewhat experimental, yes it works when set up right, but not all have the same equipment and the majority of people do not use it, nor know how to. That alone can be a problem in an emergency where everything needs to work, have enough people who know how it operates and be put on line fast and kept there working. The problem in the 90's was that there were so many packet stations operating and many didn't know how to set them up correctly. Today, there are far less packet stations on the air as the internet has taken over so there should be a lot less interference.
And as mentioned, even pre set up mesh stations need power. Than means every part of the station needs a way to keep power going to it or it goes down. Packet just sits right next to the radio and operator.
Our facilities all have generators and large propane tanks with agreements with a couple of propane company's who also have back up to re supply if necessary. All Red Cross type facility's (and schools) have antennas already in place and are set up with proper power and grounds.
There are also quite a few hams such as myself that besides having smaller generators and lots of fuel (kept rotated with gas saver in it) as well as pretty decent solar set up and the forethought to be able to quickly wire them to battery banks. All a major pain, but as a last resort, it would work. This is for my family and home also. Family comes first, at least to me. Once I know they are fine, then it's time to go and help with the EMCOMM.
And who says the equipment the Police and fire have is all that great
? It works fine now, but in a major emergency when it will be well taxed, I'm betting it will not do so well. From what I've seen of some set up's, it's fine during normal times, but major emergency's are not normal times. Our county can only have 6 units transmitting at one time, and that includes fire and EMS...see the problem, I sure do and I'm sure many other places are in the same boat. I think you will see a lot of analog use as well as help from Hams. No doubt some areas are better set up than others, especially large urban areas.
I went to a fire excersize a few weeks ago with my County Emergency Manager. After the millions spent by Homeland Security on communications for every city and county, the different fire departments still could not talk with each other. They were blown away when our Emergency Manager pulled out a computer that allowed one HT from each agency to be plugged into it and then all could talk to each other or just one agency to one agency. This is 2013, it just blows my mind away. Maybe some better thinking and millions of dollars more will solve the problem.
I also sure get tired of people who keep calling EMCOMM workers wana be Capt. America's. Are there some, yes, but not the majority. There is a huge difference between people who are well prepared and a wanna be. Me, I'll take out trash if asked to. We are there to help, and most do.
The people I know do it because they care and have the equipment and know how, they love their family's and neighbors. I was a Reserve Police Officer, no pay, shot at way more than once.
I never wanted anything from anyone for what I did. If I saved a life, did it make me feel good, darn skippy, but it's nothing to brag about, it was part of what I trained hundreds of hours for on my own time and money. The guys at the station may have talked about it, given some pats on the back, but it stayed at the station and that was the end of it.
Then there are the times you went home sick to your stomach, with tears at what you saw at a scene, so find something else to harp about. I'm betting you never did anything that took real effort for someone you didn't know at great personal danger, go play with your Cell Phone, router and dish..