Evacuation of casualties is an important facet of disaster relief. A communication link will enable triage thereby priority in casualty evacuation is effectively achieved and lives saved. The need for communications in a disaster situation is that of a vast web or network which connects a number of critical users. In the current scenario, this vital life saving facility has been destroyed and hence there is an emergency imperative to reestablish the link at the earliest.
The sequence in disaster management is rescue, relief and rehabilitation. Rescue is immediate and has to be undertaken with great alacrity, hence it would require immediate establishment of communication links for all public safety agencies on priority followed by other agencies and then the general users. To that extent there would be a need to ensure that the fastest means for restoration of communications should be used. Relief and rehabilitation are subsequent phases which will afford more time for establishment of communication links and hence the communications means suggested would vary. Within this broad paradigm we need to work from the scratch, with communications totally destroyed and nothing on ground available for last mile connectivity.
However it is assumed that existing ground cabling has not been destroyed and only the nodal structure has been obliterated as also the base physical infrastructure of non communication facilities in terms of buildings and so on are available in the case of cellular services.
Lessons from the immediate past, as during Hurricane Katrina reveal that Land Mobile Radio systems had failed and thus public safety agencies (PSA) were without communication links which heightened the crisis. What is more relevant is that the agencies did not use existing technologies to supplement communications systems thereby losing a major advantage of technology supporting rescue and relief operations in disaster situations. A hybrid system which could link land mobile radio systems where available, commercial terrestrial services, wireless satellite and wireless broadband is said to be the best means of providing communications as per a White Paper published in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.1 The report has also highlighted that public safety agencies lacked interoperable, redundant, secure and economical means of communicating. A convergence between wireless and satellite has been reportedly experimented in countries as South Korea and could well be undertaken in the instant case in the United Kingdom.
Aim and Phases of Implementation
The aim of the communication recovery exercise should be to immediately restore links at the earliest in phase 1 for all PSA, restore communications for other agencies superimposing on the public safety network and finally provide communications to all users or general public at large. To achieve this aim, the restoration will have to be undertaken in a phased manner as immediate restoration of communications to all agencies in not practicable. We can thus say that we should divide the task in the following phases:-
Phase 1 - Public