Blog post

Postcard from Geneva: comparing notes on emergency preparedness

The ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) helps to improve telecoms in developing countries through international collaboration. ITU-D uses a Study Group structure to conduct research and develop reports, guidelines, and recommendations based on input received from participants. The ETC preparedness pillar aligns with questions discussed under ITU-D Study Group 2 -- ICT services and applications for promoting sustainable development.

Salma Farouque, Global ETC Preparedness Officer, presented to an audience from Asia, Africa and Latin America at special sessions on technological evolution, ICT exercises and disaster management drills that was held at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 3 October 2018.

The sessions looked at how to use and manage telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT) for disaster risk reduction. Of particular interest to the ETC is Question 5/2 "Utilizing telecommunications/ICTs for disaster risk reduction and management" which has a strong focus on preparedness. Question 5/2 is one of eight questions covered by Study Group 2 -- read more about it here.

Salma outlined different types of emergency drills and simulations: how to go about planning one and how the ETC and its partners execute major exercises such as gear.UP, run in collaboration with the Logistics Cluster, led by WFP.

She also pushed the idea that modern emergency response requires proven technologies; unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs -- commonly known as drones) are a key area of interest for the ETC and have concrete applications in emergency response including imagery, connectivity and transport.

A quick look at some other takeaway messages from Geneva:

  • Disaster drills and simulations: Dr Preeti Banzal of the Indian Ministry of Communications reported on a mega simulation exercise conducted by the Government of India which resulted in the revision of the country’s standard operating procedures on the use of telecommunications in disaster response.
  • Emerging Technologies: Dr Abdulkarim Oloyede of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Communication moderated discussions on using innovative technologies such as the Loon high altitude balloon -- a defacto mobile cell tower that floats 20 km in the stratosphere that can be deployed in collaboration with mobile network operators to create a wide-reaching wireless network.
  • Leveraging established technologies: Rod Stafford, a representative of the International Amateur Radio Union, shared the perspective of the amateur radio community (also known as ham radio) who provide a vital communication service in times of disaster.

ITU-D Study Group 2 (Question 5/2) are looking at several thematic areas for the coming years and welcome ideas on these topics from parties with contributions to share:

  • 2018: Early warning systems
  • 2019: Drills and simulation exercises
  • 2020: Enabling the policy environment for resilience, preparedness and deployment of emergency communication systems

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a partner of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC).