September 8, 2017

Ensuring Reliable Emergency Communications During Natural Disasters

Ensuring Reliable Emergency Communications During Natural Disasters

For many, Labor Day marks the end of summer vacations and children heading back to school. But this time of the year also includes potential severe weather threats for many states in the South and along the east coast of the United States.

Hurricane season is in full force in the US until November. It is important that residents of coastal states that could be impacted remain vigilant and stay prepared. Over the last few weeks, we have seen two major hurricanes develop and threaten the US. First there was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 mph that made landfall in Texas on August 25th. Now Hurricane Irma, currently a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 180 mph, is barreling toward South Florida, having already devastated islands in the Caribbean.

During the time leading up to a major weather event likely to seriously threaten both life and property, and even more so in the days and weeks immediately following, it is important for emergency responders and public utilities to have reliable ways to communicate in order to identify and reach areas of needs. Radio systems that rely on microwave technology deliver that reliability for both first responders and public utility workers, ensuring they are able to do their work uninterrupted by technical difficulties.

Aviat’s first responder customers require radio system designs that are resistant to severe weather conditions, including the high winds and flooding that can result from hurricanes. Care and attention must be paid to ensure the systems are protected from these potential threats. This includes ensuring shelters are deployed on higher ground, utilizing wind resistant designs, and creating redundant systems so that if one radio or site goes down the entire system is not disrupted.

The use of high-power radios provides even greater reliability as the stronger signal can be broadcast over a longer distance with a smaller antenna. With smaller antennas, severe weather is likely to have less of an impact than with larger antennas required by lower power radios. Even if the antenna is somewhat affected by wind and blown out of alignment, in many instances high power radios ensure the signal can still be sent and received as normal.

It is also important that preventative maintenance is performed on the microwave systems to ensure radios are in top working order. State and local agencies and utilities need a vendor partner who is in regular communication to provide support, check for and address concerns, and look for proactive ways to strengthen their systems. Often, these agencies can take advantage of vendor’s Network Operations Centers to help identify problems areas if any should arise. Equipment suppliers, like Aviat, must have US based employees who are ready, willing and able to assist agencies before and after a storm hits to help ensure their communications systems are working properly, allowing first responders to focus on their important work.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Aviat provided backup support to a utility company in Houston that needed additional microwave technology to quickly get back online since their existing hardware was damaged from the severe wind and flooding, quickly restoring communications thus allowing utility personnel to communicate with one another and begin rebuilding their city.

As Hurricane Irma heads for Florida’s coastline, preventative measures are being taken to ensure radio communications stay available throughout the storm and in the days following. Since Aviat partners with several local governments and municipalities in Florida, our local teams have been proactive in reaching out to our partners to offer any additional support we can.

Our thoughts remain with Texas as they rebuild from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, as well as with Florida as they brace for the impacts of Hurricane Irma. At Aviat, we have the greatest appreciation for our brave first responder customers, and for the selfless volunteers, who jumped to action as quickly as the storm had passed to help each other and all those in need.

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