Digital Regulation Platform
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Emergency communications

Emergency communications

Introduction Telecommunications and information and communication technologies (telecom/ICTs) are critical for disaster management and risk reduction as they are used for monitoring the underlying hazards and delivering vital information to all stakeholders, including the most vulnerable societies at risk. The effective management of disaster risk depends on the level of preparedness and communication and information sharing across all levels of government, within communities, and between public and private organizations. In that sense, National Emergency Telecommunications Plans (NETPs) can articulate a strategy to enable and ensure communications availability during all four phases of disaster management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The…

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Preparedness phase: early warning

Improvements to preparedness, particularly through early warning schemes, save lives. However, they should come from trusted sources, such as the national entity for monitoring and early warning. For hydrological and meteorological events, the national meteorological organization is in charge of issuing those alerts. For instance: In 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam caused 24 deaths in Vanuatu; it also caused base station towers to collapse, so satellite phones and VHF radio had to be used for communication during the emergency response. In 2017, Tropical Cyclone Donna resulted in no deaths; before it arrived, there had been warnings by radio broadcasts and SMS…

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Preparedness phase: community outreach

Community outreach Operators can be expected to tell their customers about their own products, but not necessarily about communications more generally. Information needs to be repeated for each generation. For instance, at the time of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, 21 per cent of the public in Japan did not know about the phone and Internet message boards (for sharing knowledge of casualties) and 91 per cent had not used them, though they had existed for about twenty years (ITU 2013). The regulator should require that operators inform not just their employees but also their customers about the telecommunications plan…

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Preparedness phase: hazard monitoring

Monitoring environmental conditions using specialized equipment has long been a necessary part of preparedness. Equipment has been falling in cost and rising in capability. There are now many cheap and portable sensors and actuators available in Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can be powered using solar panels or long-life batteries and that can communicate over long-range wireless networks. They are well suited to risky and remote locations. Even if they do not individually provide information of the same quality and quantity as more expensive equipment, they can compensate by being installed in bulk and communicating their information to systems…

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Response phase: communication restoration

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) In circumstances where mobile base stations or the satellite network are not available after a disaster strikes, some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be useful as they can relay traffic widely and observe sites from above. UAVs vary greatly in size, capacity, control technique, flying capability, and flight altitude (between 200 metres and 20 kilometres). Those operating at 20 kilometre altitudes can provide communications over areas 40 kilometres in radius. For communications that mend breaks in existing communications networks, solutions like tethered kites, tethered balloons (Shu 2017), solar powered gliders, and solar powered balloons (Etherington 2019)…

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Recovery phase: communication evolution

Public Protection and Disaster Relief Telecommunication/ICT used in responses to disasters depends heavily on wireless technologies. It is therefore related closely to Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR), which has been defined to combine both, Public Protection (PP) radiocommunication used when dealing with maintenance of law and order, protection of life and property, and emergency situations; and Disaster Relief (DR) radiocommunication used when dealing with a serious disruption in the functioning of society, posing a significant, widespread threat to human life, health, property, or the environment (ITU 2017). In the past, PPDR has been implemented using special-purpose networks and terminals,…

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Recovery phase: infrastructure reconstruction

Infrastructure reconstruction Reconstruction of the telecommunications infrastructure should follow soon after the disaster, and should consider rebuilding more resilient telecommunication/ICT network infrastructure and include potential redundant network deployments wherever possible to prepare for future disasters. Government and the private sector should also take advantage of the opportunity to rebuild relevant telecommunication/ICT infrastructure, and where possible, to deploy technologies that are more resilient, efficient, and less expensive (ITU 2020). For post-disaster needs assessments, there is a guide oriented to costing replacements for damaged telecommunications equipment and infrastructure (PDNA 2014). Also, reconstruction might present many opportunities for improvement. For instance: Weaknesses exposed…

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Mitigation phase: infrastructure duplication, resource sharing, and regulatory forbearance

Infrastructure duplication Making networks resilient calls for the elimination of single points of failure, especially for backbone cables and critical equipment such as authentication servers (ITU 2014). Costs can be reduced by ensuring that competing operators have their own separately routed and equipped networks but agree that after a disaster they will make their networks available to each other. Such arrangements need care, both because they could weaken competition and because routes that are disjointed in one layer of a network could well be sharing a lower layer. However, having separately routed networks is not enough: there should actually be…

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