Satellite's Role in Achieving Communications Interoperability for Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Operations
28th AIAA International Communications Satellite Systems Conference (ICSSC-2010)
When disasters strike -from hurricanes to airplane crashes -the public safety community's ability to effectively communicate is critical. Unfortunately, terrestrial infrastructure in the U.S. is often unreliable during a natural or man-made disaster. This paper discusses the SMART™ (Satellite Mutual Aid Radio Talkgroup) program. Using satellite technology, SMART provides reliable, interoperable communications for Federal, state, local and tribal public safety officials during emergency
... emergency situations. The paper includes a description of the technology, recent case studies illustrating its usage and a preview of the next generation of satellite technology and its capabilities. 2 entities to create eight more regional talkgroups. Annex B depicts how national and regional SMART groups overlap, detailing each group and providing contact information for each SMART manager. C. Talkgroups for Specific Purposes While all of these SMARTs are used for command and control, SkyTerra' push-to-talk service also can be used for interoperable tactical operations. In addition to J-SMART, DOJ also operates SMART-T. This SMART would be used, for example, in a hostage situation or standoff where DOJ, state and local law enforcement are all working together to manage a situation. Most likely, these groups would all have different types of day-to-day communication equipment. However, with SMART-T, DOJ could quickly add everyone involved in the situation to the talkgroup. The team could communicate seamlessly, helping to resolve the incident as quickly and safely as possible. Once the situation is over, DOJ can remove users just as easily. After the success of the Regional SMART Network, SkyTerra has helped various public safety organizations develop SMARTs to suit their specific needs. For examples, F-SMART connects fire service personnel, E-SMART is for emergency medical service, L-SMART is for the U.S. law enforcement community, and I-SMART enables interoperability among government/private sector/critical infrastructure entities in the Seattle area. IV. Case Studies A. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks In 2003, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks purchased numerous SkyTerra mobile satellite units. The department had them installed in the vehicles of the officers who patrol the state's extensive waters and forests to ensure that fishing and hunting enthusiasts abide by state regulations. Mobile satellite communications are ideal for this unit, because the officers on patrol cover very large, remote areas that generally are out of LMR and cell phone range. SkyTerra's satellite network allows the department to stay connected and coordinate efforts, even when miles from home base and each other. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Region damaging landlines, cellular networks, and LMR communication systems. Communications among the many federal, state and local entities involved in the rescue effort were extremely difficult throughout the region. SkyTerra's satellite network, however, never failed -before, during or after the storm. As a result, the State of Mississippi was able to call on the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for help. By parking the satellite-equipped patrol vehicles at critical government offices and emergency facilities, Mississippi was able to immediately restore statewide communications, helping the disaster relief teams coordinate and prioritize efforts to best serve the public in the wake of the disaster. B. Tornado in Allegany County, Maryland Allegany County, Md., like many other parts of North America, is located in a rural, mountainous region where cell phone coverage can be unreliable -a challenging situation for public safety officials who rely on communication for coordinating both day-to-day operations and rescue efforts during an emergency. During the summer of 2009, a tornado with winds between 90-100 mph touched down in the community of Old Town, knocking down trees and utility poles, leaving people trapped in their homes and completely destroying all communications. Following the tornado, public safety professionals from multiple agencies in the county and across the state of Maryland needed a way to communicate with each other in order to coordinate rescue efforts quickly and efficiently. With terrestrial networks destroyed, Allegany County public safety officials turned to satellite technology, dispatching vehicles equipped with SkyTerra Communication's MSAT G2 push-to-talk satellite phones to the affected region. In addition, officials relied on the Mid-Atlantic States Mutual Aid Radio Talkgroup (M-SMART) to communicate with the county 9-1-1 and emergency operating centers as well as the Maryland State Highway Administration.