16 years later: Communication during disasters still remains a challenge after 9/11
Experts have long argued that more sophisticated , critical communication protocols could have prevented many of the devastating human and commercial losses that sustained at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
9/11: How communications failed
Firsthand accounts of Lower Manhattan on September 11 paint a picture of confusion and chaos. Chains of command and lines of authority were unclear. Evacuation drills were limited at best, and no protocols were established for evacuating tower occupants trapped on the floors, above fire.
To make matters worse, technical communications proved insufficient. Cellular service failed completely. The phones, pagers and radio channels of police and public agencies were overtaxed. What’s more, information was disseminated in a haphazard way due to communication breakdown.
Businesses, first responders and even public officials didn’t get the warnings or accurate information needed to safely evacuate the towers. People in the tower buildings were unable to get information about what to do, how to escape and as a result, many lost their lives.
We have come a long way in the past 16 years, but nothing much has changed. Disasters, whether man-made or natural, continue to cause unimaginable destruction to lives and properties across the world. And keeping lines of communication open, to lessen the shattering impact of such tragedies still remains a challenge.
Because there is sudden and wide-scale breakdown or interruption of communication infrastructure in most disasters, the need for a reliable, dedicated communication network supporting first responders and other public safety agencies is important – without that, safety of lives and assets is at risk.
ResQMobil, VNL’s emergency communication, search and rescue system is perfect for that job. It is an integrated, portable solution that can be set up and deployed at the disaster site within 6 hours, in order to minimise the disaster impact. It aids emergency response by quickly establishing an independent, autonomous and ready-to-use cellular network for supporting emergency response operations at disaster-hit areas.
Disasters can leave civilians trapped under rubble, debris, concrete, or mud. For aid agencies and first responders, it is imperative to find, detect and locate such individuals at the earliest. ResQMobil is equipped with the latest search and rescue equipment to detect, find, and locate trapped survivors. It provides mobile location information and connectivity to active mobiles of affected civilian population, thereby helping save precious lives.
Following any disaster, a number of emergency teams from different aid agencies are deployed to affected areas. Though teams need to communicate with each other and with Headquarters, they usually use diverse platforms that may not be inter-operable. This forms islands of networks, often independent of each other, thereby creating a major constraint for aggregating information for suitable disaster relief action. Equipped with an aggregator, ResQMobil integrates with different legacy radio networks to provide actionable information to authorities seeking a bigger picture.
By working to better understand the implications of critical communication during disasters and help secure communication networks against failure at disaster sites, we can ensure we are prepared for whenever the next disaster may strike.