Portable Communications Systems During a Natural Disaster: Are You Prepared?

Updated: Jun 10

Having effective portable emergency communications during a natural disaster is critical for every community. With an average of 100 declared disasters across the U.S. annually, no community is immune from extended emergencies or disaster events. The broad threat profile you must plan for is greater than ever and includes both natural and man-made disasters that can rapidly devastate your community. It’s not a matter of if a disaster will strike your community, it is simply a matter of when.

Having effective portable communications capability to provide back up for your most critical communications systems can literally make the difference between life and death when such an event happens. Yet history has shown that a lack of proper communications in the First 72-hour window is the main driver and cause for cascading events that greatly magnify the initial harm caused by the actual disasters themselves. Your ability to manage events in the first hours is critical for controlling and managing outcomes. Having reliable working communications during a disaster is critical for the responders who will face rapidly shifting events and to ensure full Situational Awareness at every level of the incident’s response.

1. That critical infrastructure will be lost or compromised, including roads and access to the most critical nerve centers of the event.

2. That you will lose power and critical network systems that you depend on.

3. That you will lose your “normal” means of communications and that your main lines of communications will be dramatically affected.

4. That “help” will arrive much latter than you think, and that full restoration will take much longer than you thought.

5. That you will need to maintain sustained operations throughout the Response and Recovery with whatever back-up communications you already have in place.

Simply put, any strategy involving back-up communication systems (portable or other) that are dependent on any form of infrastructure puts your community at risk. For instance, a contingency plan that involves communications systems that are supported by generators requiring refueling is a common area that is often overlooked. This is because generators require fuel; which also require roads to be in place for fuel delivery; and also the power infrastructure to be working in order to pump the fuel into the delivery truck.

This single strategy (depending on back-up generators)- which also plays a large role in many communities’ contingency plans, has multiple interdependencies that need to function in order for the strategy to work. Yet, one link failure in the logistics chain is all it takes for this strategy to completely break down. Over dependence on back-up generators has a well-known history of failure in disaster events, but it is often used as default strategy as it is believed there is no other alternative.

Likewise, another strategy is to highly depend on a logistically heavy Mobile Command Center (Vehicle), or depend on this type of support from outside of the community. For example, a town that depends on their county for communications vehicle support, or a county that depends on this type of support from other counties or their state. Mobile Command Vehicles have all the above interdependencies and many more. The main risk of depending on a Mobile Command Vehicle for your back up communication is that the roads actually need to be in place for the vehicle itself to even get to the main point of operations. In many disasters, the road systems are highly compromised greatly delaying the arrival of these types of vehicles. Mobile Command Vehicles also depend on refueling for sustained operations which makes them a less than ideal choice for many communities.

Another strategy is to depend on a single portable communications technology for back up communications. Satellite phones (or Sat Phones) are the most common choice for back-up communications. They are relatively affordable and widely available pre-disaster. However, dependence on satellite phones as your only means of back-up communications can also fail for multiple reasons. During disaster situations, the satellites themselves (transponders) over the disaster area can become saturated with emergency traffic, overwhelming the transponder giving the user “all circuits are busy now” at the most critical times during the disaster.

In a disaster or large scale emergency event, you need a portable communications solution that employs multiple technologies in a single portable platform that is not dependent on any infrastructure whatsoever in order to provide emergency communications. You need a portable system that does not depend on roads, fuel, or any single communications mode during disaster events. The ideal portable communications solution during a natural disaster should at a minimum:

1. Be highly portable and tactically deployable without the need for roads.

2. Not be dependent on any other infrastructure in order to function.

3. Should have the right mix of redundant communications systems.

SemperComm® is the ideal portable communication solution for a disaster. SemperComm was designed by emergency responders for emergency responders, and is ideal for rapid deployment for large scale critical incidents. SemperComnm provides all the necessary "stop gap" communications needed to back-up your most critical communication systems should they become compromised due to a natural disaster or other emergency event.

SemperComm provides emergency communications during extended operating conditions where there is limited power and where there is little to no supporting infrastructure. SemperComm provides redundant communications capability all in a portable package and can be pre-staged at your most critical points of operations. SemperComm literally transforms any vehicle into a “Mobile Command Center” in the time it takes to place the unit in the back of an SUV or any other vehicle.

To learn more about how SemperComm can meet your portable emergency communication needs click here.

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