Occurrence of Natural Disasters is inevitable. We can only try to mitigate the Damage caused by the same by using efficient disaster management strategies.
A dedicated communication network plays a key role in managing the crisis caused by the disaster.
One of the most significant impacts of natural disasters is the breakdown or interruption of traditional communications networks. The communication networks get entirely or partially damaged by disasters or become congested with exceptionally high levels of traffic. This adversely affects emergency responders in their rescue operations.
So there is a Strong need for a dedicated network (other than Radio Network) to be used by the rescue teams for better coordination.
In the immediate hours and days following a disaster, the demand for communication networks increases. During that time, it is critical that rescue workers and government officials synergise their efforts to provide relief and support to those affected. Rescue operation cannot be stopped or delayed even though the responding agencies are unable to communicate with one another. In these time-sensitive and mission critical situations, even few minutes lost can mean the difference between life and death for victims in need of rescue.
The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 highlighted the cost of communications breakdowns during disasters. While seismic monitoring stations throughout the world detected the massive sub-sea earthquake that triggered the tsunami, a lack of procedures for communicating these warnings to governments and inadequate infrastructure in the regions at risk delayed the transmission of warnings. Therefore, it is clear that better communications can save several lives.
Many times public safety agencies become limited in their ability to communicate and share information with other agencies.
The Telephone regulatory of India has released a consultation paper on Next Generation Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) communication networks’
In United States of America (USA), public safety agencies have joined together to design, develop and deploy information and communications technologies to support policing, criminal justice, public safety and homeland security. Inter-agency collaboration initiatives of this nature resulted in the creation of Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) communication networks. PPDR communication networks allow for the rapid deployment of networks in situations where capacity is needed on an expedited basis.
PPDR services (law enforcement, emergency medical service, firefighting, search and rescue, border security etc.) are provided by various PPDR agencies. PPDR agencies, also known as first responders, are the primary forces that deal with incident response. These agencies are responsible for day-to-day public protection and also respond to any disaster and deploy the required services in the disaster prone area.
In India, primary PPDR communication systems are designed and run by many independent state agencies. Currently, PPDR communication infrastructure in India is either old Analog Systems or it uses narrowband radios.
The narrowband nature of these radios limits them to only 2-way voice communications with no inherent support for high-bandwidth transmission requirements such as Interactive video communication, Remote video surveillance of security or disaster sites etc.
Such systems suffer from problems like interoperability failures, inefficient use of spectrum, and higher costs.
Such systems do not provide the level of secure communication required by India’s security forces resulting in easy leak of information to unwanted entities.
With the proliferation of digital technologies there is a growing need in PPDR communication for significant enhancement in operational data capabilities.
A responsive and efficient PPDR network is an essential requirement of a nation. Having felt the need to have advanced, reliable, robust and responsive PPDR network, the TRAI has suo-motu taken up the issue of “Next Generation Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) communication networks”
PPDR communication networks are different from normal commercial networks in many ways. This is mainly due to the mission critical traffic which flow through these networks. The ideal characteristics of PPDR communication networks are:
♦ Availability: PPDR effectiveness is undermined by network downtime, especially in emergencies. Networks should be available at least 99.99% of the time.
♦ Capacity: The PPDR network should have sufficient capacity and redundancy to handle traffic during the peak operational conditions.
♦ Coverage: PPDR communication networks coverage has to be extensive. It should provide coverage in the whole geographic area of the mission, which may have the dimensions of a metropolitan area network or even wider. In addition, indoor coverage configurations must also be available, especially in basements and tunnels or large and crowded infrastructures.
Easily and Rapidly Deployable: The traditional networks already in existence break down during disasters hence PPDR communication networks should be easily and rapidly deployable.
♦ Interoperability: Interoperability is a crucial requirement of PPDR communication networks for the effective and efficient operation and cooperation amongst PPDR agencies. Interoperability implies that PPDR agencies are able to continuously share information with each other at all times.
♦ Mobility: PPDR communication networks are deployed in highly dynamic environment, which translates to a wide variety of mobility requirements. Hence, PPDR communication networks are generally wireless because it provides enhanced mobility.
♦ Performance: The response in PPDR communication networks should be real-time and have low latency.
♦ Quality of service: The PPDR networks should meet very high QoS standards so that missions are not affected due to poor quality, as the stakes are high and most of the communications are mission critical in nature.
♦ Reliable: PPDR communication networks should be reliable as it would be required to operate in hostile environments.
♦ Security: Communication through PPDR communication networks should be capable of only being heard by the intended recipient for safety and confidentiality purposes.
♦ Scalability and Reconfiguration: The scale and nature of each disaster is different. Hence, PPDR communication networks deployed should be easily reconfigurable and scalable to accommodate these requirements.
1. Information Access :- By their nature, PPDR operations can derive significant benefits from the ability to access a wide variety of information, including informational databases, access to instant messaging, high-quality images and video, mapping and location services, remote control of robots, and other applications.
In future, large deployments and proliferations of robotics, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication, Internet of Things (IoT) etc. will have a significant impact on PPDR operations and emergency rescue operations
2. Wide range of PPDR applications:- PPDR applications, such as transmission of high resolution images and real time video, requires much higher bit-rates than what current narrowband PPDR technology can deliver. PPDR agencies need mobile broadband networks that enable them to share streaming real-time video, detailed maps and blueprints, high-resolution photographs and other files.
3. Interoperability: – Currently, all the mission-critical organizations operate their own voice centric networks on a variety of frequency bands and a variety of technologies, and thus are generally not interoperable with each other. Interoperability issue can be overcome in broadband PPDR if the broadband PPDR network operates on a common standard nationwide.
Spectrum allocation is the most important component to adopt LTE as the future technology of choice for broadband PPDR in India. An appropriate spectrum allocation can help provide greater capacity for overloaded network and dynamic reconfiguration capability to better manage load and connectivity.
TRAI is acutely aware of the role of robust and reliable communication setup for PPDR.
Accordingly, some steps have been taken by TRAI in the recent past to address certain primary issues in this area.
1. Priority routing of calls: – In November 2013, TRAI sent its recommendations on priority routing of calls of persons engaged in response and recovery. This is partially implemented by the Government. If this is fully implemented, it can facilitate interagency communication over commercial networks at the time of first response to an emergency.
2. Integrated Emergency communication and response system (IECRS):– It is a known fact that the networks get overloaded during emergencies resulting in denial of service to first responders. The TRAI has recommended a single number based Integrated Emergency communication and response system (IECRS). Government has accepted this recommendation and has adopted 112 as the single emergency number in India and guidelines have been issued to implement IECRS across the country.
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