In anticipation of the upcoming hurricane season, Hughes Network Systems, announced today that it is making available emergency communications offerings during this hurricane season, designed for rapid service restoral.
NOAA is predicting a very active 2006 North Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 – Nov. 30) and is urging people in hurricane prone areas to make preparations. NOAA’s outlook indicates an 80% chance of an above-normal hurricane season.
Hughes has a range of emergency communications offerings under HughesNet, for enterprises, government agencies and relief organizations:
- Access Continuity Service: a private satellite network with pre- installed terminals that automatically switch-over in the event of primary path failure;
- Emergency Network Restoral: a pre-established private network with satellite terminals deployed rapidly following an incident; and
- Emergency Business Internet: expedited installation of satellite terminals providing broadband Internet access to affected locations.
Satellite communications played a crucial role in the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year. Hughes and its team of value-added resellers worked closely with organizations in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to deploy emergency HughesNet satellite services and related equipment to reconnect people with their families, find medical care, and obtain relief services.
In related news, Gregg Swanson, Founder and Executive Director of Humaninet tells DailyWireless that they will hold a “Simulation Day” on June 15 to demonstrate a deployed crisis communications center using key technologies in a simulated field environment. The goal is to certify people on a variety of communications gear and to train collaboratively.
Recently HumaniNet and N-TEN co-hosted a Webinar featuring Sebastian Naidoo, Managing Editor of ReliefWeb, the world’s leading on-line gateway to information on humanitarian emergencies and disasters.
HumaniNet’s guide to satellite communications in remote areas is comprehensive, detailed and clear. This spring HumaniNet held a roundtable discussion at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Seattle on the topic is “Information sharing for disaster response: are we ready for the next tsunami, earthquake, or Katrina?”
San Diego first responders tested Wi-Fi mesh during a simulated terrorist strike last month. The drill involved police, SWAT, fire and HazMat personnel, along with researchers at UCSD who developed the WIISARD (Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters), which aims to track medical data during disasters.
The test used four 802.11b access points that were capable of sharing their combined access with a third-generation EV-DO cellular network. Another application tested during the drill included a 3D video system called Reality Flythrough.
HumaniNet in conjunction with Global Relief Technologies (GRT) is teaming with GeoEye and Telenor Satellite Services to demonstrate timely delivery of satellite imagery to emergency relief workers in the field during their Simulation Day on June 15th. GeoEye, the world’s largest commercial provider of satellite imagery, operates a constellation of satellites – OrbView-2, OrbView-3 and IKONOS.
Although not portable, HughesNet, Starband and WildBlue provide 2-way VSat consumer satellite terminals in North America for remote internet access to geosynchrous satellites. There are several DIRECWAY Satellites… IA-8, AMC9, SatMEX 5, G4-R, Horizons-1 and G-11.
Assemble Communications has a hurricane satphone kit (above) that comes in a watertight suitcase and features a battery-powered Inmarsat satellite antenna and handset. The $4,995 kit includes 400 minutes of talk time that don’t expire until used and 150 megabytes of Internet access – enough for about two days of average surfing.
Inmarsat phones, also using geosynch satellites, are more portable than VSats and can be carried in a backpack or briefcase.
Handheld sat phones, using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, are certainly smaller and more convenient, but they have much slower data speeds.
Iridium satellite phone service recently added Direct Internet Data Service, which connects to a PC or laptop via data cable, an Iridium phone and an Iridium SIM card. This service utilizes compression, resulting in effective throughput data rates higher than the 2.4 Kbps service that Iridium’s data service normally operates at. Iridium phones cost about $1,500, and 500 minutes of talk time runs about $550.
Globalstar (right), with over 200,000 activated satellite voice and data units, provides satellite phone service from virtually anywhere in more than 120 countries. The Globalstar Duplex Modem delivers digital data communications virtually anywhere in the world. Globalstar phones cost as little as $645 and an emergency plan costs $29.99 a month, with minutes costing an additional $1.49 per minute.
Thuraya provides blanket coverage to 99 countries spanning Europe, North and Central Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population using a GEO satellite. ThurayaDSL satellite IP modem offers “always on” high-speed GPRS packet data communication via Thuraya satellite.
Using GEO satellites, Inmarsat’s BGAN provides service with $2,200 and $3,500 terminals using standard IP data service at speeds up to 492Kbps. IP streaming has a capacity of up to 256kbps (which is suitable for ‘live’ video). One reason why Inmarsat has yet to target the Pacific maritime segment with BGAN is that the “spot beam” could not initially accommodate much in the way of movement of the antenna. A third satellite will probably be launched in 2008, addressing the coverage issue. Inmarsat F3 would also enhance West coast coverage.
The Hawaii Pacific Teleport operates incoming circuits supplied by Southern Cross, and uplinks them to “deep reach” satellites orbiting over Asia.
Telecommunications companies are calling for legal fixes after Katrina. The FCC had an independent panel assess communications problems faced during Katrina. The president’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee released a formal report in January calling for telecommunications providers to be designated “emergency responders” while the White House issued its Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned report, in February, acknowledging that “lawlessness also delayed restoration of essential private sector services.”
While modern technology is able to detect the formation of a tsunami fairly quickly, the United States lacks a robust warning system and detailed knowledge on the effect a tidal wave could have on coastal areas, the Government Accountability Office said .
Sixteen tsunami warnings issued since 1982 were not followed by destructive waves on U.S. shores, the report says, “potentially causing citizens to ignore future warnings.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is deploying 32 new advanced technology Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) buoys for a fully operational tsunami warning system by mid-2007.
In addition, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) will enhance its seismic monitoring and information delivery from the Global Seismic Network, a partnership with the National Science Foundation.
The new system will provide the United States with nearly 100% detection capability for a U.S. coastal tsunami, allowing response within minutes.
The new system will also expand monitoring capabilities throughout the entire Pacific and Caribbean basins, providing tsunami warning for regions bordering half of the world’s oceans.
The Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/PTWS), conducted its first end-to-end Pacific-wide tsunami exercise for the Pacific Ocean just last month, on 16-17 May 2006.
The United States has led the GEOSS effort since 2003 when the G-8 called for establishing a global observation system.
INMARSAT is frequently used to provide direct-dial voice, fax, and telex to and from the international public telecommunications networks. A fast deployable WiFi network can be airdropped to support emergency relief work after a natural disaster.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, volunteer groups of network and wireless experts equipped Louisiana shelters with wireless Internet access and VoIP phones. Practice though simulation days and organizations like HumaniNet can help. Preparing for future contingencies can be both vital and fun.
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