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close this bookEmergency Information Management and Telecommunications - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 62 p.)
close this folderPart 3: Setting up the systems
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View the documentEmergency information management tasks and issues
View the documentEmergency telecommunications tasks and issues

Emergency telecommunications tasks and issues

Tasks -
* prior to onset of crisis

Hardware issues

Software issues

Personnel issues

1. Clarify and approve agency emergency telecommunications policies and procedures and communicate to all staff.

Budget for approved equipment (eg, Inmarsat phones vs HF radios for strategic telecommunications preferences for voice vs text vs data capabilities, power supplies, etc.)

Policies, procedures for equipment use: all agency staff? Designated staff only? other agencies as well?

Identify approved telecommunications system operators; establish training program (in-house? or contracted trainers?)

2. Identify likely telecommunications links (HQ/field, local and national government agencies, UN agencies, NGOs, donors). Identify backup (redundant) systems for critical links.

Compatibility of equipment across key agencies and lifeline services.

Understanding of frequencies allocated to key agencies and lifeline services.

Determine extent of expertise available for use and repair of equipment and infrastructure.

3. Identify government telecommunications regulations and barriers; where feasible, negotiate waivers for them in event of emergency.

Frequency authorizations and limit s on radio types; import licensing and fee regulations; government policy on use of Amateur Radio Service in emergency.

Keep file of visa requirements for international personnel in times of emergency as well as names of government authorities capable of waiving requirements.

4. Prepare an emergency telecommunications inventory by region, country, and district and update it on a periodic basis. Map existing telecommunications links and identify vulnerabilities to specific hazard types.

Location, types, range of private networks (police, fire, ambulance, Amateur Radio, etc.) including HF/VHF radio and repeater types, other private phone exchanges and wiring (field telephones, etc.); available backup power supplies and fuel (generators, inverters, batteries, wind turbines, solar panels, electrical adapters); basic repair toolkits.

Local, regional differences if any in telecommunications - regulations (special requirements for security zones).
Country frequency list.
Understanding of emergency use of ITU radio regulations, especially Resolution 640.
Forms for telephone, radio, message logs.

Compile names, locations, skill levels of radio operators (particularly of Amateur Radio Service operators).

5. Develop equipment maintenance plan and implement it

Check radio equipment on monthly basis; charge batteries as needed (eg, charge nickad batteries every 3 months).

Chart plan on manager’s wall.

Assign task of charging batteries to specific staff; make managers responsible for conducting monthly physical checks of equipment.

Tasks -
* with onset of crisis

Hardware issues

Software issues

Personnel issues

6. Obtain maps of areas affected by the emergency and note functioning/non-functioning telecommunications links.

Locations of, distances to affected zones; lifeline facilities; existing sites/facilities.

7. Assess the current status of public networks. Prepare an estimate of time required to restore normalcy.

Extent of damage to satellite, terrestrial phone networks, distribution systems (eg. relays).

Set up procedures to limit incoming calls to affected areas; favor outgoing calls.

Skills level available for repair, operation of public networks.

8. Assess the current status of private networks; note functioning/non-functioning alternatives to public systems. Make inquiries to authorities/owners of private networks to ascertain potential for use by agency.

Extent of damage to: fire, police, ambulance, Amateur Radio services.

Review capacity to work via existing private networks.

Level of skill in capacity to use, work with private networks (Amateur Radio Operators, police, fire, etc.).

9. Determine and communicate local availability of emergency telecommunications equipment to logistics managers. Invoke previously-arranged waivers on import and licensing where politically feasible.

HF and/or VHF radios, repeaters, antennae, field telephones and wiring, power supplies, etc.

Government willingness to permit setup, allocate radio frequencies.

Level of skill in radio use, frequency tuning/programming.

10. Assess the local availability of power supplies and fuel, and communicate to logistics managers.

Status of electrical grid; availability of generators, diesel, UPS, battery packs, voltage regulators.

Put redundancy strategies in place.

Skill level to use, connect, maintain various power supply options.

11. Develop emergency telecommunications plan. Identify all gaps in the system - in particular non-functioning links with on-site staff; communicate immediately to logistics managers.

Inventory of equipment needs at each site (clarify type and range of on-site equipment).

Clarify strategic and tactical needs.

Identify needed skills.

12. Select essential emergency telecommunications sites (according to emergency needs as well as sites identified as “still-functioning”.)

Availability of functioning infrastructure.

According to intended areas of response and lifeline services.

Ascertain availability of trained operators at sites.

13. Prepare security arrangements for approved emergency telecommunications against potential threats.

Fenced, locked buildings for equipment.

Develop and communicate procedures for limiting access to telecommunications sites.

Hire guards; post as needed; screen operators (security checks); give security training.

14. Fill gaps in emergency telecommunications system. Procure needed telecommunications inputs (locally, if possible, to speed procurement, delivery, and setup).

HF radios, repeaters, VHF handheld radios, antennas; power supplies and backups (generators, battery packs, chargers, UPS); wiring; ensure hardware input compatibility.

Ensure equipment can handle frequencies authorized by local authorities.

Hire staff or identify and contract outside expertise as needed.

15. Issue an appeal for international assistance where appropriate - ie, if domestic telecommunications system cannot ensure functioning within 24 hours of outbreak of crisis.

eg, DHA On-Site Operations Coordination Centers (OSOCCs).23

Ensure advance government approval, customs clearance for equipment to be imported.

Call rostered technicians, eg, UNDAC teams (sent by DHA) to establish telecommunications system.

16. Establish tactical emergency telecommunications network; improve links between field workers (emergency sites, field offices, airstrips, ports, convoys, barges, etc.).

Handheld/mobile VHF/HF equipment (with repeaters if required); antennas, power supplies. Lay wiring if private phone exchange is desired.

Implement usage procedures, ie, call signs, “chat times” (“skeds”), frequency tuning, etc. Establish links with other emergency services (eg, police, ambulance).

Fully train operators in policies/procedures for using tactical system to minimize jamming, system overloading.

17. Establish strategic emergency telecommunications network, ie, set up and strengthen links (between field workers and HQs/other international sites).

Inmarsat phones, HF shortwave, Marine radio; voice, text, or data capabilities are established as needed.

Implement policies/procedures for usage, eg, message reception/logging by base stations and HQs, “chat times”, equipment use by emergency agencies - and for billing them. Choose voice, text, or data messages based on needs and budget.

Train operators and HQ staff in policies and use of strategic equipment to minimize per call costs.

18. Continue monitoring progress made in restoration of public networks.

Demobilize emergency equipment where restoration ensures redundant systems; maintain and repair as needed.

Check critical telephone/fax numbers and compare with directories to ensure accuracy.

With restoration, hold staff review of emergency telecommunications experience.

23 DHA provides (pending availability) “On-site Operational Co-ordination Centres (OSOCCs) to enhance tactical telecommunications capabilities in emergencies. Emergency response teams - ie, “UNDAC” teams - are sent (also pending availability) upon request with complete sets of portable, mobile and base VHF transceivers, repeaters, and power supplies. Equipment is distributed to rescue teams and to local authorities and services to establish needed telecommunications links. On a national level, OSOCC equipment is provided to tie together the various national headquarters in the capital of the affected country. HF radio links with SITOR or similar modes are provided.

Q. Review the above matrices. Which three tasks would be the most difficult for your organization to carry out? Why? What measures could be taken to facilitate the implementation of each of these tasks


Task 1: ________________________________________________________

Task 2: ________________________________________________________

Task 3:________________________________________________________


Rapid Response in Zenon: You are the head of an emergency “Rapid Response Team” about to be deployed to the country of Zenon by Global Relief, a Geneva-based international NGO whose mission is to relieve suffering in complex emergencies throughout the world. Global Relief has never had a presence in Zenon, but with the increasing numbers of refugees flowing into northern Zenon to escape the conflict in Nortenia, your organization has decided it is time to respond.

The plan is to establish a medical relief program in Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie Camps, all of which lie within 50 kms of the Nortenian border. Eight international staff will live in and work out of a compound just outside Camp Alpha, the largest camp, as soon as facilities can be arranged. Global Relief will also establish a small, two-person government liaison office in Capital City.

According to information received from the local Red Cross in Capital City, mudslides have destroyed all public telecommunications networks in the northern region of Zenon. It may be several months before lines are functioning again. There is no public power supply in the northern region outside of Montano. There are roads into the three camp areas, although mudslides can hamper access from time to time. UNHCR currently has an Inmarsat Standard-C terminal in Alpha Camp. The local Red Cross has an HF radio transceiver in Alpha Camp which permits telecommunications with its office in Montano. A message received three days ago at Federation offices in Geneva reported several cases of cholera in Charlie Camp.

Security problems have not yet been a major concern in the camps, although the Government of Nortenia insists that the camps have become bases for armed rebels belonging to the South Nortenian Liberation Army which is fighting for an independent homeland in southern Nortenia.

Your Rapid Response Team has been charged with setting up functioning emergency information management and telecommunications systems for Global Relief medical staff who are expected to arrive and start relief operations within the next week to ten days.

You will be leaving this evening at 17h30 for Zenon. Arrival in Capital City is anticipated at 08h00 tomorrow morning. To prepare for your mission, your team should now answer the questions below.

Q. You are the head of the Global Relief Rapid Response Team en route to Zenon. What issues, concerns, or problems in setting up these systems will confront your team over the next week? What possible measures or solutions can you propose?

A. __________________________________________________________

Q. List the various tasks that your team will have to undertake. Consider the various hardware, software (system), and personnel issues that will confront your team. You may refer to the matrices presented above, but you should try to go beyond them in terms of specifying details pertinent to the Zenon emergency. Make any reasonable assumption you believe necessary to complete the exercise.

A. __________________________________________________________