Advanced Use of Satellite for Emergency Communications
Disasters are often combined with the destruction of the local telecommunication infrastructure, causing severe problems to the rescue operations. In these cases the only possible way to guarantee communication services is to use satellites to provide a backhaul connection to the intact network infrastructure. Such a system could be set up anywhere in the world where there is satellite coverage.
In fact the existing solution to overcome the communication problems is to use satellite phones in the first hours after the disaster. With the help of more complex and bulky technologies it is also possible to rebuild and deploy a wireless telecommunication infrastructure to transmit both voice and data over the satellite, e.g. providing connection for standard GSM/UMTS, WLAN, WiMAX, TETRA, etc. to the public networks. So in addition to supporting search and rescue operations, these solutions restore local 3G/4G infrastructures allowing normal mobile phones and terminals (e.g. laptops) to be used by the victims of the disaster. Anyway the latter solutions require many hours to several days to be brought to the place of the disaster.
What is still missing today is a complete solution that can be rapidly deployed immediately after the disaster, within the first 24 hours, replacing the traditional use of satellite phones, and that can be maintained during the response and recovery phase, in place of the heavy and cumbersome devices. This solution for the very first hours and days after an emergency should be easily upgradeable: during the response phase, the capacity and coverage of the system should be improved and telecommunication services provided at lower costs; the system should be also used to re-establish a permanent wireless telecommunication infrastructure in the recovery phase (see next Figure), so that work is not duplicated.
The activities and the research in this area are very fragmented and scattered. For this reason the European Commission is trying to create a broad agreement in Europe to work in the same directions and to improve the technologies for the provision of public safety communications in case of emergency; so the EC has decided to establish the PSC (Public Safety Communication) Europe Forum. The forum was created on the 21st May 2007 in Luxembourg. Satellite communications play a fundamental role in this forum and an ad-hoc working group was created inside the PSC Forum to deal with them, the „Satellite and HAPs for Emergency and Public Safety Communications“ (SHEPScom) working group. A member of the BSS group at DLR, Dr. Matteo Berioli (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org), is chairing this working group. More information can be found on the PSC Forum website: http://www.publicsafetycommunication.eu.