Rebuilding Communication Infrastructure in the Aftermath of Disaster

Natural disasters affect millions of people around the globe every year, causing untold dollars in damage and disrupting and endangering many lives. In addition, disasters of every size present major challenges to the public safety personnel who are charged with emergency response and relief.

While all public safety agencies prepare meticulously for natural disasters, Typhoon Haiyan pushed first responders and communications infrastructure in the Philippines to their limits — and beyond. Even knowing days beforehand that a storm is approaching, public safety officials can only do so much to brace themselves for a prolonged emergency response effort that stretches for days and even weeks after the storm.

Typhoon Haiyan tests a nation

Typhoon Haiyan constituted one of the most significant natural disasters in recorded history. Early estimates showed the typhoon affected more than 13.2 million people across 36 Philippine provinces. Red Cross volunteers throughout the region reported significant damage and a staggering death toll. More than 4 million people were displaced from their homes by the storm.

Electricity generation and transmission facilities, as well as cell phone base stations, were destroyed or rendered inoperable by the massive storm, leaving Filipinos, who are among the world’s heaviest users of cell phones and text messaging, figuratively and quite literally in the dark. First responders, both domestic and from around the globe, had to rely on traditional mission-critical radio communications to relay critical information and orchestrate response efforts.

A helping hand

The need for strategic support and recovery relief is essential in the immediate aftermath of an event like this typhoon. However, the long-term job of restoring agency personnel, checking and repairing critical infrastructure and making resources available after such an event can be extremely daunting.

To bolster compromised communications infrastructure and ensure that relief personnel are able to communicate, coordinate and collaborate, multiple business units across Harris Corporation have worked together to support the millions of victims and communities in the Philippines impacted by this tragic event.

Harris donated more than 100 of its top-grade mission-critical communication multiband portable radios, VSAT Satellite terminals, miltary-grade line of site radios and other communications equipment and ground personnel services.

In addition to helping repair or replace infrastructure and technology for first responder communications, the company also provided humanitarian aid in the form of employee gift matching through the American Red Cross. On-scene Harris personnel assisted public safety agencies coordinate tasks and activities to support restoration in the area. Equipment set-up and training was provided for public safety officials to ensure they are properly educated and equipped for future disasters.

Immediate and effective response to a disaster like Typhoon Haiyan is a must for first-responders. And public safety officials, in any jurisdiction, would be well-served to take the time now to prepare for the inevitable arrival of an emergency situation at their own doorstep.

Chris Leonard is director of international programs for Harris Corporation Public Safety and Professional Communications Business Unit in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has more than 30 years experience in the wireless communications industry, as both a systems engineer and program manager. Previously, he was director of international programs for Harris’ Tactical Radio business in Rochester, New York.

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