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Emergency Radiocommunications

Telecommunication is critical at all phases of disaster management. Aspects of radiocommunication services associated with disasters include, inter alia, disaster prediction, detection, alerting and relief. In certain cases, when the "wired" telecommunication infrastructure is significantly or completely destroyed by a disaster, only radiocommunication services can be employed for disaster relief operation.

Two major tasks of the ITU-R - ensuring the effective use of the radio-frequency spectrum and studies concerning development of radiocommunication systems - concern all radicommunication services. Moreover, the Radiocommunication Study Groups carry out studies related to the continuing development of radiocommunication systems used in disaster mitigation/relief operations and these can be found within work programmes of the Radiocommunication Study Groups.​

Disaster
phases
Major radiocommunication
services involved
Major tasks of
radiocommunication services
Studies carried out by
Radiocommunication
Prediction & Detection
  • Meteorological services (meteorological aids and meteorological-satellite service)
  • Earth exploration-satellite service
Weather and climate prediction. Detection and tracking of earthquakes, tsunamis hurricanes, typhoons, forest fires, oil leaks etc. Providing warning information Study Group 7

Alerting
  • Amateur services
Receiving and distributing alert messages Study Group 5
  • Broadcasting services terrestrial and satellite (radio, television, etc.)
Disseminating alert messages and advice to large sections of the public Study Group 6
  • Fixed services terrestrial and satellite
Delivering alert messages and instructions to telecommunication centres for further dissemination to public Study Group 5
Study Group 4
  • Mobile services (land, satellite, maritime services, etc.)
Distributing alert messages and advice to individuals Study Group 5
Study Group 4

Relief
  • Amateur services
Assisting in organizing relief operations in areas (especially when other services are still not operational) Study Group 5
  • Broadcasting services terrestrial and satellite (radio, television, etc.)
Coordination of relief activities by disseminating information from relief planning teams to population Study Group 6
  • Earth exploration-satellite service
Assessment of damage and providing information for planning relief activities Study Group 7
  • Fixed services terrestrial and satellite
Exchange of information between different teams/groups for planning and coordination relief activities Study Group 5
Study Group 4
  • Mobile services (land, satellite, maritime services, etc.)
Exchange of information between individuals and/or groups of people involved in relief activities Study Group 5
Study Group 4
ITU-R is also invited to pursue studies on the further identification of suitable frequency bands that could be used on a global/regional basis for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), as well as on facilitating cross-border circulation of equipment intended for use in emergency and disaster relief situations - the second of these tasks being reinforced by the Tampere Convention on the provision of telecommunication resources for disaster mitigation and relief operations.
Recognizing that the immediate availability of pre-identified and pre-coordinated frequencies, and/or spectrum are important for the successful use of radiocommunications in the very early stages of humanitarian assistance intervention for disaster relief will save many lives, WRC-15 revised Resolution 647 (WRC-15). This Resolution requests the BR Director "to support administrations in their work towards the implementation of both Resolutions 36 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) and 136 (Rev. Busan, 2014), as well as the Tampere Convention" and "to coordinate activities between this resolution and Resolution 646 (WRC-15) in order to minimize possible overlap".
The Radiocommunication Assembly 2015 (RA-15) approved Resolution ITU-R 55 instructing all ITU-R Study Groups to carry out studies on the use of radiocommunications in disaster prediction, detection, mitigation and relief.
The scope of ongoing studies/activities within each Study Group in support of disaster prediction, detection, mitigation or relief radiocommunication systems
Study Group 1Studies on spectrum management aspects and requirements in support of disaster radiocommunications fall within the scope of Study Group 1. Considering that administrations may have different operational needs and spectrum requirements, depending on circumstances, there is a need to define the appropriate mechanism(s) for the identification and registry of spectrum resources. Exploration of monitoring techniques is another key responsibility of SG 1 and such work could be especially beneficial when applied to all phases of disaster radiocommunications (prediction, detection, mitigation, and relief).
Study Group 3Study Group 3 will undertake the necessary studies to assess the propagation conditions for the frequency bands and services used for disaster warning and disaster relief, especially those identified as regionally harmonized bands (Res. 646 (WRC‑03)). It will further study possible changes in the local propagation conditions associated with the disaster itself.
Study Group 4

In the event of natural disasters, epidemics and famines, etc., there is an urgent need for a reliable communication link for use in relief operations. Satellite appears as the most appropriate means to quickly set up a communication link with remote facilities. Assuming the system is to operate in the fixed-satellite service (FSS), it is desirable that a small earth station, such as a fixed VSAT, a vehicle-mounted earth station or a transportable earth station, with access to an existing satellite system, should be available for transportation to, and installation at, the disaster area. It is also desirable that the system relies on widespread standards so that equipment is readily available and interoperability and reliability are ensured. Mobile-satellite service (MSS) systems are ideally suited to support disaster response and relief efforts. The wide coverage area of MSS systems is particularly helpful as disaster events are unpredictable and can happen at any time or location. Importantly, MSS system operation is typically independent of local communications infrastructure, which may be interrupted by a disaster event, enabling MSS to ensure open lines of communication when they are most needed. Furthermore, most mobile earth stations (MESs) are battery powered, often with solar chargers, and so can operate for some period of time even if the local electricity supply is disabled.

Study Group 4 is working on these issues and has completed work on:

  • Recommendation ITU‑R S.1001‑2 "Use of systems in the fixed-satellite service in the event of natural disasters and similar emergencies for warning and relief operations".
  • Recommendation ITU‑R M.1854‑1 "Use of mobile-satellite service in disaster response and relief"
  • Report ITU‑R M.2149‑1 "Use and examples of mobile-satellite service systems for relief operation in the event of natural disasters and similar emergencies"
  • Report ITU‑R S.2151 "Use and examples of systems in the fixed-satellite service in the event of natural disasters and similar emergencies for warning and relief operations"
  • Question ITU‑R 290/4 "Broadcasting-satellite means for public warning, disaster mitigation and relief".
Study Group 5

The mobile, fixed, amateur and amateur-satellite services have proven to be of huge importance in the fields of disaster prediction, detection, mitigation and relief.

Like broadcasting, mobile service cellular applications may be used in an early warning system, as they enable authorities to establish direct contact with the citizens having a mobile receiver.

The maritime mobile service is familiar with the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).

Disasters may demolish radiocommunication infrastructures; in such cases, the amateur and amateur-satellite services enable communication links in areas affected by natural disasters to be maintained.

Study Group 5 is working on these issues via Questions ITU‑R:

    • 209-5/5 – Contributions of the mobile and amateur services and associated satellite services to the improvement of disaster communications. Under this item, Study Group 5 has revised Report ITU‑R M.2085 ("Role of the amateur and amateur-satellite services in support of disaster mitigation and relief");
    • 248/5 – Technical and operational characteristics for systems in the fixed service used for disaster mitigation and relief. Under this item, Study Group 5 has developed Recommendation ITU‑R F.1105 (Fixed wireless systems for disaster mitigation and relief operations) with an appendix on a Regional Digital Simultaneous Communication System (RDCSS). This RDCSS can be used to collect data or information relating to a disaster by a central system for subsequent transmission (of alerts) to residents. It also provides simultaneous individual or group communications between the central station and residents.

There are also Reports ITU‑R F.2061 and ITU‑R F.2087 which discuss the role of HF radiocommunication systems in disaster relief operations.

Study Group 6

The Study Group initially focused on the means by which the broadcasting-satellite service (BSS) can assist in warning the public of impending disasters and in disseminating information relating to relief operations, followed by the approval of Question ITU‑R 118/6, entitled "Broadcasting means for public warning and disaster relief". In response, the Study Group has developed Recommendation ITU‑R BO.1774/ BT.1774 on the use of satellite and terrestrial broadcast infrastructures for public warning, disaster mitigation and relief, the aim of which is to help permit the rapid deployment of equipment and networks currently available in the terrestrial and satellite-broadcasting services. These services can provide means for alerting the public, for informing them of preventive measures and for disseminating information on the coordination of rescue procedures. The Recommendation gives technical guidance on the improved usage of terrestrial and satellite broadcast services in cases of natural disasters.

Study Group 6 continues to work on these issues. Within the study period 2003-2007, SG 6 completed work on revised Question ITU‑R 118-1/6, entitled "Broadcasting means for public warning, disaster mitigation and relief" and revised Recommendation ITU‑R BO.1774-1/BT.1774-1, the latter containing additional information regarding an emergency warning system (EWS). In the study period 2012-2015, SG 6 will verify the need for revision of Question ITU‑R 118/6 and of Recommendation ITU‑R BT.1774‑1 in cooperation with Study Group 4, which may develop a new Recommendation in this matter with respect to the broadcasting satellite service, that may replace Recommendation ITU‑R BO.1774‑1.

Study Group 7

Disaster prediction and detection are major fields of study supported by Study Group 7. Remote sensing systems (both passive and active) operate in frequency bands pre-determined by the laws of physics. These remote sensing systems provide observations of the Earth's atmosphere and surface that enable the prediction and detection of meteorological, climatic and other environmental conditions that are the basis for major natural disasters.

Study Group 7 endeavours to identify the necessary radio-frequency bands and to provide supporting Recommendations governing operational characteristics and protection requirements of remote sensing systems, and similarly to enable the return of the resulting data to Earth. The acquisition, processing, analysis and distribution of data from remote sensing satellites is accomplished by various national and international agencies, and the data are made available to interested organizations.

Disaster mitigation is aided by the provision of high-technology satellite communication systems developed by other Study Group participants including technologies such as tracking and data relay satellites.

The Study Group works closely with ITU‑D and is currently responding vigorously to ITU‑D Question 22/2.

Relevant Web pages