Satellite telephony for disaster management

With communication networks going for a toss during natural disasters, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is mulling over immediate acquisition of more satellite phones for use during rescue operations.

It also wants the state governments to make a similar purchase. In disaster-prone zones, the NDMA proposed a framework consisting of satellite phones and satellite linked telephone booths to enable the affected people to communicate with the outside world.

The NDMA also wants a provision in the licensing agreements between telecom providers and Department of Telecom which makes the former liable to send alerts through text messages when directed by the authorities.

These issues were discussed in a meeting of the NDMA here, chaired by the prime minister on Monday.

Sources said the meeting asked the Union Home Ministry, Department of Telecom and ISRO to look into relevant aspects of use of satellite phones.

NDMA Vice-Chairperson M Shashidhar Reddy said disaster management requires reliable, responsive and dedicated communication and IT support at national, state and district levels.

“Communication networks are among the first casualties in a disaster due to their terrestrial nature. Despite good forecast and early warning, communication system to reach out to the authorities and people in remote areas often breaks down,” he said.

The NDMA is of the view that immediate acquisition of adequate number of satellite phones should be considered to maintain a central “reserve” for use by rescue and relief agencies during disasters.

The meeting also decided that the Cabinet Committee decision to explore the possibility of deploying satellite based communication network for the  western Himalayan region needs to be extended to all the hill regions.

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