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Satellite Communications: the future of incident reporting

By GeoConnexion - 13th June 2013 - 10:43

Natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, or major transport and industrial accidents, can be challenging and dangerous for the emergency services to deal with.

These incidents often occur in inaccessible areas, or the disaster or accident may have damaged essential communications infrastructure. In such situations it's imperative for 'blue light' services and other governmental departments to act quickly to minimise the risk to human life.

To do this requires immediate and reliable access to detailed incident intelligence – and where fixed-line infrastructure has been damaged, this isn't always possible.

Even where essential communications equipment remains intact, existing fixed-line networks may prove to be inadequate or inoperable during a crisis. Access to real-time information can be made impossible due to inhospitable terrain or situations where the incident takes place in locations beyond the reach of fixed-line infrastructure. This is a big concern for emergency services personnel, as it has the potential to dramatically compromise the effectiveness of their response units and times.

Aerial surveillance solutions (such as rescue helicopters) are often deployed in these situations and can be highly effective in providing situational assessments. However, this is not always viable due to budgets restrictions, time restraints and flight safety considerations. An alternative solution is required, capable of being utilised in any situation.

Satellite communications technology now exists that is highly durable, lightweight and portable, capable of being transported and operated by a single person without the need for any existing infrastructure. This is a particular benefit for incident response personnel who can be on site within minutes, communicating live information, video and images back to a central command centre. The ability to combine this technology with other intelligence gathering solutions (such as land, sea or air based vehicles) enables high-definition visual assessments to be delivered incredibly quickly regardless of the incident's location – which can make all the difference in an emergency.

Satellite technology has reduced the complexities associated with incident response and recent developments have made this an increasingly viable alternative to fixed line communications – especially important in cases where existing infrastructure has been damaged or is no longer working.

The emergency services no longer need access to complicated, specialist technology in these situations as satellite broadband solutions can deliver comparably high-speed, high-capacity data links with the added benefit of being highly portable. Broadcast equipment, like Vislink's Mantis MSAT, can deliver the level of live-video streaming necessary to tackle life-and-death situations for a fraction of the cost when compared to manned airborne solutions.

Several advances have been made by Vislink in the design and downsizing of satellite data terminals and high-definition surveillance solutions to deliver these new approaches. Furthermore, by their very nature, satellite technologies lend themselves well to being part of a communications 'ecosystem', designed to complement a range of other solutions and provide a comprehensive view of the situation, whilst supplying the networking backbone that ensures important lines of communication remain open. Such developments allow 'blue lights' forces to remain connected with one another at all times, regardless of where the incident has happened or the level of damage it has caused.

As natural disasters are largely unpredictable and can happen anywhere, it's critical that regional emergency services departments as well as centralised teams have access to communications technology that will enable them to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible without having to wait for backup to arrive. To better tackle these kinds of incidents, regional units should be equipped with low-cost satellite surveillance equipment. This would not only allow for a more rapid response and assessment of the situation, but could also help to reduce pressure on central resources, as the initial response could be undertaken by local units.

Rapid response services can also adopt satellite communications solutions when going into unknown situations, as they can guarantee access to functioning communications equipment no matter what happens. Live video surveillance is now all around us, and is one of the key elements to delivering the necessary information for tactical decision making. Thanks to the simplicity of modern satellite technology, this lightweight and highly portable equipment can be deployed from a single backpack and setup within minutes without the need for specialist training.

The most important commodity in any crisis is access to information. As a mature solution, with new satellites regularly deployed to improve the capacity and quality of coverage, satellite technology allows emergency services to bridge the communications blackout that often follows a natural disaster.

Lance Hiley, Chief Marketing Officer at Vislink

Read More: Satellite Imaging Emergency Services Environmental

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