Tools for Emergency Responders to Combat Dead Zones

A lack of coverage can be inconvenient in the best of circumstances, but for first responders in an emergency situation, it can be hazardous. A poor signal or dead zone can lead to miscommunication between first responders, and even cause casualties when the time of response is critical. However, technology can be used to bridge the gaps when necessary. Here are a few ways that emergency responders can improve reception in the field.

Advance Preparation
The FCC recommends taking the time to prepare for this type of situation, identifying your processes with communication or IT technology in advance. Take all necessary actions to protect computers and secure equipment before storms, and back up databases at key moments. There are three federal programs in the USA that can provide for call queuing. The Wireless Priority Service Program can improve connections for authorized national security or emergency preparedness mobile numbers, but these must be prioritized in advance.

Data Storage Systems
Part of advance prep is backing up databases. One potential solution is to use the power of the cloud to store data at distances away from the dead zones. If the infrastructure has failed, the cloud storage can be used as a backup. This is particularly important after the fact, when responders need access to data collected during the event. Because cloud storage can be adjusted to scale, it works in a variety of situations on the ground.

Portable Broadband
Another useful tool in dead zones is a portable mobile broadband network. Often when a natural disaster hits an area, the telecommunications networks are the first things to fall. Portable networks are one way to address this common problem. Telecom providers have been working on these portable networks which can then be used for emergency situations. For example, Nokia Networks public safety solutions include their “broadband in a box,” which transmits its own network within a small area. It can be brought directly into the dead zone where emergency workers are traveling so that they don’t miss out on any vital communications.

Unmanned Drones
Drones are now used increasingly in the public safety sector. One area where they’re frequently used is in combating forest fires. Drones can be designed for any particular situations, whether it’s to withstand extreme temperatures or fit in small spaces. A drone can go to areas where reception may be poor, and take high-quality audio or video recordings to transmit back to the first responders. This gives the emergency responders access to real-time data before they enter the dead zone, which is useful on multiple levels. They can also be used a form of communication by hosting communication platforms. This is particularly useful in rural areas where they may not be a usual network, or in urban areas where the network has gone dead due to the disaster situation.

Technology now plays a major role in public safety, but it’s important for responders to be able to communicate in areas where there is no regular mobile service. With access to portable networks, responders can access emergency response apps, send out SMS alerts to citizens, and stay in touch with all members of the team. This can help save lives even in the most rapidly changing emergency environments. 

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