Resilient Networks: A Must-Have for Natural Disasters
By Todd Rigby, Director of Sales, The Rajant Corporation
The U.S. experienced 18 climate disasters in 2022, causing over $175.2 billion in damage and 474 deaths, according to Forbes Advisor. These disasters have not only increased in frequency since the 1980s – rising from an average of three per year to 13 – but they’ve done more damage and caused more deaths. It’s imperative that technology improve to support first responders as they combat these crises. Specifically, wireless networking innovation contributes to enhanced communication and aiding first responders before and during natural disasters. This can have significant positive impact in saving lives, protecting property, and preserving natural resources.
Innovations in wireless networking include improved coverage, capacity, and reliability to create highly resilient networks. The usage of new devices like the Internet of Things (IoT), drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and finally, mobile command centers and collaborative communication platforms both increases the productivity of applications and improves communications interoperability.
Improved coverage and reliability, and more resilient networks
Advanced wireless mesh networking uses a set of nodes for connectivity that relays information and data to establish multiple redundant wireless connections. This has led to improved coverage and reliability of networks, even in challenging environments. Wireless mesh networking creates self-sustaining connectivity, even when some nodes are lost or damaged. It ensures that first responders have more dependable communication channels during disasters, enabling them to coordinate their efforts effectively when most needed.
The self-sustaining part of wireless mesh networking makes it so innovative. Maintaining coverage while technical issues affect parts of the network is critical to large ground operations. Redundant infrastructure, backup power systems, and intelligent routing algorithms ensure that communication remains functional despite infrastructure damage or power outages.
Enhanced coverage created by wireless technology, which supports voice, video, and data, allows first responders to share critical information in real-time. They can share dynamic insights across agencies, which improves resourcing and exacting protocols, thus providing more comprehensive situational awareness to enhance public safety.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices, drones, and manned/unmanned aerial vehicles
Wireless networking is the backbone of IoT technology that can monitor and collect data before, during, and after disasters. These devices can detect changes in environmental conditions, track vital signs, and identify potential hazards. This information helps first responders assess risks, prioritize rescue efforts, and allocate resources efficiently by creating a network of connected devices, all sharing the same information.
For example, drones and UAVs for disaster response are other valuable tools that help assess the situation and prioritize rescue efforts. This technology can capture aerial footage, provide real-time video feeds, and assist search and rescue operations. With wireless connectivity, drones can transmit data and even high-definition video back to command centers, allowing for swift decision making and enhanced response time.
Wireless mesh technology allows these devices to function harmoniously in remote areas or areas ravaged by natural disasters because mesh does not require extensive infrastructure. In some cases, mesh nodes can be fitted into mobile or wearable devices and then transmit data to a local command center or via cloud services for real-time access from anywhere.
Use of mobile command centers to improve interoperability
Mobile command centers were primarily funded after Hurricane Katrina victims flooded 911 call centers and police headquarters during the storm. Following the devastation of Katrina in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security allocated funds so that mobile emergency units could be created for large-scale emergencies.The dream was happier than reality. While many communities did get command centers, Federal, State and Local emergency responders still cite interoperability as one of their biggest challenges. Getting every agency to pick a standard two-way radio system is impossible. However, by integrating mesh nodes with each agency’s mobile 2-way units, the mesh network can be the answer for interoperability.
These centers serve as connectivity hubs for first responders, enabling them to coordinate operations, access databases, and communicate with various agencies seamlessly. The ability to set up these mobile command centers, equipped with robust network capabilities, ensures that safety personnel can act quickly and coordinate across agencies, which can reduce the impact of damage and reduce the number of casualties.
Wireless networking has also facilitated the development of collaborative platforms specifically designed for first responders. These platforms enable seamless sharing of information, voice and video communication, and situational updates among different agencies involved in disaster response. This interoperability improves coordination and enhances the overall effectiveness of emergency operations. The future is now.
About the author:
For more than 25 years, Todd Rigby has been deploying communications systems and technology solutions across multiple industries. He has successfully helped numerous companies with various digitization and Industry 4.0 initiatives. These efforts have improved safety, productivity, asset utilization, and output. Todd has first-hand experience with many different communication technologies, and their application to various industrial use cases. He is the subject matter expert in the United States for Mining, Heavy Construction, Agriculture, Material Processing, Manufacturing and Warehousing for Rajant Corporation, a leading industrial wireless mesh networking company. Todd has helped to develop Rajant’s Partner sales channel throughout the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Australia, and Africa. Before his employment at Rajant, Todd ran a prominent technology integrator and was Rajant’s first reseller Partner.