As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Even if you have a flawless communications system in place, if it fully relies on terrestrial infrastructure it can be gone in an instant during emergencies. Hurricanes, wildland fires, ice storms, terror attacks, and other disasters can knock out radio and cell towers for extended periods of time.
The question is, then what? What will happen to your operations when radio and cellular networks are down? The answer will largely depend on your emergency preparedness. If you have a good plan and execute it well, it’s possible to have a system in place that allows you to continue operations during and after emergencies.
Of course, there are four common camps when it comes to preparing for emergencies and disasters:
- Rose colored glasses: Mother Teresa works here and everyone knows that nothing bad happens to those who do good
- Hot air balloon: They say it’s the thought that counts and we’ve definitely talked about needing to find a solution
- Some assembly required: James Bond would approve of our configuration but few of us remember how to use any of it
- Private island: Elon Musk personally assigned us a satellite and an evacuation spaceship so we’re all set
Then there’s the fifth group:
- Prepared: Skymira’s integrated RoIP solutions mean we’re prepared to communicate through emergencies without a hitch
Whichever camp feels most familiar (unless Mother Teresa or Musk work for you), this checklist will help you evaluate how prepared your push-to-talk communications system is for emergencies and outages. And it can help you make and execute a plan that will mean you’re prepared next time an emergency comes knocking.
In order to prepare for emergency comms, you have to figure out both what will change and what will be important when the situation becomes critical. Once you’ve identified those foundation points, you’ll be able to do the right planning and get the right equipment so that your communications will work even when everything else is down.
1. Radios for all critical team members
Having good two-way radios is essential when the situation gets critical. They can be a lifeline for critical communications and operations during emergencies. During the upheaval that follows an emergency, personnel can become involved in tasks they don’t typically do. It’s important to think ahead to make sure you’ll have radios for everyone who will need one.
- Does everyone have a good, reliable radio?
- Will anyone need a radio who typically uses a smartphone or dispatch console?
- Will anyone who typically uses a vehicle radio need a handheld radio?
- Will any additional reassigned team members, temporary employees, out-of-town emergency personnel, or volunteers need radios?
2. Batteries or alternative power sources for radios
Everyone needs power sources after disaster strikes. Batteries and generators, like water, can become impossible to get during emergencies. By planning ahead, you ensure you’re prepared with batteries and other necessary power sources for radios when they’ll be needed most. Remember to factor in the heavy use that often accompanies critical periods. Extra hours, extra users, and fewer alternatives mean you’ll go through inventory more quickly than usual.
To calculate the number of batteries you need on hand for two-way radios, for instance, multiply
- # of radios (include extras used during emergencies) x # of hours used/day (factor in extra hours worked during disasters) x # of days (consider risk factors and location) = # of batteries needed
Inventory such as batteries should be frequently rotated when new, regular stock comes in. Scheduled checks for quality and to double-check inventory numbers are also important.
Evacuations, generator usage, and panic all drain fuel supplies when they’re most critical. Because of this, it’s important to know where you will get fuel for critical vehicles and generators during emergencies. Whether you find a dedicated source, put contracts in place, or store your own critical reserves, ensuring that you’ll have fuel can be the difference between being able to save lives and being stuck at home.
4. Satellite connection for HQ as well as remote vehicles or sites
Radios only help if you can use them. Batteries and fuel are an important first step, but without a network, you’re still operating in the dark. Unlike radio and cellular towers which can be knocked out by natural disasters and attacks, satellite is secure and reliable year-round.
While it’s true that satellite options have been unwieldy and prohibitively expensive in the past, Skymira’s integrated RoIP solutions are adaptable to match your workflow configurations and budget requirements. Like they’ve done for scores of government and private organizations who are using satellite RoIP (radio over IP), Skymira’s system engineers can help you build a solution that meets your operational needs.
- Do you need satellite as a primary or backup network?
- Do you need satellite connectivity for one location or many?
- Do you have fixed sites that need permanent installations?
- Do you have vehicles that need permanent installations?
- Do you have temporary or moving sites that need agile solutions?
- Do you have vehicles that need temporary satellite coverage?
Skymira’s reinvented RoIP solutions can be integrated into your existing LMR (land mobile radio) system to solve everyday communications challenges and, at the same time, prepare your communications for disasters. Because they’re already in use, they’ll be familiar without requiring extra training and emergency communications drills. Additionally, intuitive designs mean it’s easy for temporary emergency response personnel to catch on quickly.
In order for all of this planning to be effective, it’s important that those involved know what’s available and how to use it when necessary. Roles and workflows can change quickly during emergencies, and resources only help if they’re accessible. This is why simple, intuitive solutions and good pre-emergency communication are key.
Here are some questions to ask in order to ensure everyone knows what to do during emergencies when comms networks go down. Information – whether communicated through training or posted checklists and instructions – can keep everything running smoothly even in emergencies.
- Do roles and responsibilities change?
- Do talk groups change?
- Does chain of command and report change?
- What roles will new, temporary, or volunteer personnel have?
- What will temporary personnel need to know about protocol and available resources?
- Does everyone know where emergency supplies are kept?
- Does everyone know how to deploy a GoKIT™ or other agile satellite solutions?
- Would posted checklists, explanations, or diagrams help streamline response?
- What else can be put in place ahead of time in terms of decisions, training, and planning that would allow communications to flow uninterrupted during emergencies?
Answering these questions and any others that relate to your company or industry will help your whole organization to be as prepared as possible to respond to emergencies quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
Use this checklist to:
- evaluate your current level of preparedness
- start a discussion about improving readiness
- regularly assess your planning and execution
- restock after your plan has been deployed
With appropriate preparation, you’ll reduce the impact emergencies will have on your company or agency and those you serve. Contact our RoIP experts today to begin preparing your communications system for emergencies.