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Hurricane Sandy - One Year Later: Why Satellite Technology Should be a Part of Emergency Planning

Author: Tony Bardo, Hughes Network Systems

Date: 2013-11-22
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It has been over a year since Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard, impacting areas from Florida to Maine and devastating the Breezy Point area of New York.  The storm severely damaged terrestrial telecom networks, knocking out landlines, cell towers and associated voice and Internet service for hundreds of thousands of residents and numerous businesses, large and small.  For many government agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses, Sandy became the tipping point for implementing new and improved emergency communications preparedness plans. 

As evidenced during and after Superstorm Sandy, satellite networks played a major role in ensuring continuity of communications, keeping emergency responders, businesses and people connected when terrestrial services were disrupted or unavailable.  First responders and public safety managers experienced first-hand the critical need to communicate during a crisis to effectively respond and manage field resources, including organizations assisting with recovery efforts.  Government leaders in turn relied on highly reliable and resilient satellite communications to coordinate effectively among national, regional and local agencies.

 

Providing Communications for FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Rockaway, New York

The Rockaway and Far Rockaway areas of Queens, NY—home to between 175,000 and 200,000 people—were hit hard during the storm and left with limited or no terrestrial communications.  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded quickly, opening up 40 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in the area, providing much needed information about recovery services such as housing/rental assistance and referrals to other assisting agencies (e.g., Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, Small Business Administration).  Jumping in to support the cause, Hughes supplied its nationwide satellite broadband service and high-speed terminals to re-establish voice and data connectivity.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy debris and destruction can be seen in and around the houses in Breezy Point, N.Y. Over 100 houses burned to the ground as flood waters isolated the community from fireman. Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and caused the most damage in New York and New Jersey Oct. 29, 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan J. Courtade/Released) 

Helping Habitat for Humanity to Rebuild Breezy Point, New York

Over 100 homes were lost in the Breezy Point area of New York from a six alarm fire that ensued during Superstorm Sandy.  Habitat for Humanity set up a command center nearby to help coordinate the rebuilding efforts—and in the absence of terrestrial communications, welcomed the Global VSAT Forum put out a call to its members.  Ultimately Hughes joined with others and delivered key communications services, including broadband Internet, to assist in the recovery effort.

The overwhelming message is that federal, state and local agencies rely on a highly resilient and secure network that keeps operating even when disaster strikes.  And that requires an architecture incorporating satellite technology to back-up terrestrial—offering the only true path diversity  to terrestrial fixed and wireless networks, both vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters. 

Natural disasters are a certainty, whether hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or wildfires, and the cost of rebuilding devastated communities is unavoidable.  Being better prepared in advance is the only way to mitigate the inevitable human suffering and negative economic impact in the aftermath—which means emergency response organizations and businesses need to ensure robust emergency communications preparedness plans are in place before, not after a crisis occurs.  If Sandy taught us anything, it’s that satellite solutions are an essential part of that imperative. 

 

Tony Bardo is Assistant Vice President for Government Solutions,  Hughes Network Systems, a leader in the satellite technology industry.  For more info on Hughes, see http://government.hughes.com

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