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Accelerating Disaster Response and Relief: Top 4 Cutting-Edge SatCom Solutions

When fiber and cellular telecommunications networks are impacted or rendered completely unavailable by a natural or manmade disaster, establishing secure connectivity is a crucial first step in the overall response effort.  

Emergency responders, government officials, and aid organizations are among the many groups that typically descend on a disaster site to begin providing support. As the first to arrive on the scene, they all require the presence of reliable connectivity as soon as possible to begin coordinating efforts and delivering relief. Relying exclusively on the locally available terrestrial network is not an option. 

In disaster scenarios, satellite communications offer the resilience, and ubiquitous connectivity needed to accelerate the recovery process and ensure that response teams on the ground can do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Today’s high-throughput satellite solutions, offer Communications on the Move (COTM) and Communications on the Pause (COTP) connectivity via highly mobile and portable equipment that even a technical novice can quickly and easily deploy, no matter where in the world the need may be.  

These are four of the most common ways high-throughput satellite networks can support all those involved in disaster recovery operations: 

1. On-the-Ground Coordination: 

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, any first responder arriving on the scene must have immediate access to robust connectivity to swiftly begin coordinating efforts as soon as possible. Connectivity enables firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, non-profit organizations, and government workers to share information, allocate resources, and fluidly respond to changing events on the ground. When cellular is unavailable, satellite-powered connectivity can provide all emergency response providers with the communications capabilities needed to confront the crisis at hand. 

The importance of reliable connectivity extends beyond immediate disaster scenarios. Even in more routine yet safety-sensitive environments such as oil and gas sites, where cellular connections may be unreliable, satellites play a crucial role. Rhys Morgan, RVP, EMEA Sales at Intelsat, emphasized this, stating that “access to reliable and always-on connectivity is critical to ensure production continuity, continuous monitoring, and employees’ safety.” 

2. Restoration and Recovery: 

No matter if a disaster strikes a small town, major city, or wider-spread geographic region, restoring the basic infrastructure as quickly as possible ranks among the highest priorities. Utility workers play a critical role in repairing towers, pipelines, cables, and other damaged ground equipment that enables the restoration of essential services such as electricity, water, and gas. The work is hard, and in many cases, often must be done under dangerous conditions. In the absence of terrestrial networks, a high throughput satellite (HTS) communications solution can enable workers to organize, quickly procure needed supplies, and coordinate with one another to initiate and complete repair work quickly and safely.  

“[Satellite] was absolutely critical in our disaster relief efforts in Haiti and around the world,” said HELP.NGO director of operations Adam Marlatt. “[Intelsat was] quick to provide the equipment and the technology we needed to restore communications so we could spring into action, deploy resources and ultimately save lives.” 

3. Maintaining Civil Order: 

Disasters can cause panic, fear, and instability among the affected population. Random violence and looting can occur in the absence of authority, exacerbating an already difficult situation and making the recovery process even more challenging. Restoring order is critical. When cellular networks fail, satellite network solutions provide law enforcement officers with an alternative communications capability to re-establish and maintain public safety, enforce laws, and respond as quickly as possible to crimes in progress, accidents, and disturbances.  
4. Public Health Response: 

When a disaster causes injuries and imperils the health and safety of a community, paramedics are charged with providing aid to those in need, transporting patients to hospitals, and coordinating with treatment centers. In these scenarios, high-speed connectivity can enable highly trained medical professionals to provide advanced life support, administer medications, conduct remote telemedicine, and stabilize patients whose conditions may be critical. In cases where the health of the public may be at risk, satellite enables health professionals to coordinate responses, manage resources, and broadcast critical information in the absence of social media platforms and other information-sharing sources.  

Reliable communication systems are a lifeline for first responders ensuring ongoing and effective coordination, informed decision-making, and public safety when traditional cellular networks falter. With ongoing investments in a next-generation, software-defined network, these solutions can confidently support first and emergency responder bandwidth demands as they evolve. 

Learn more about these next-gen solutions here.  

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