The role of wireless connectivity in fighting natural disasters

Cradlepoint Australia Pty Ltd
By Nathan McGregor, Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, Cradlepoint
Friday, 01 March, 2024

The role of wireless connectivity in fighting natural disasters

We all know the usual components necessary to fight disasters like a fire, whether it be a house fire, an apartment building, or even a bushfire. The water, the firefighters, the trucks are all vital. However, a resilient network also has a crucial role to play in fighting natural disasters.

Strong and flexible networks enable the communication that is so important in an emergency response situation. This includes the sharing of data, status updates and even communicating instructions to citizens. An easy to manage and deploy wireless wide area network (Wireless WAN) approach provides a network that can reliably uphold communications in these critical moments.

Network resilience for first responders

In modern emergency services the operational headquarters must have reliable data connectivity to the emergency vehicle and first responders at all times. Although many emergency services like fire brigades still use MPLS for connectivity to their fire stations, it’s common for these stations to use Wireless WAN routers for failover. These routers can switch to a different transport type if there is an issue with the primary network. Response time in any emergency situation is critical and therefore there can’t be any delay in incoming transmissions or communications to vehicles that need to respond.

But what happens when the firefighters and vehicles need to respond to an event? The modern fire truck and ambulance is often equipped with technology that must communicate with headquarters and be able to share critical data in real time. With a Wireless WAN approach to connectivity on these vehicles, routers can switch to different transport types as the vehicles move through service providers or mobile transport service types from headquarters to the scene of the incident.

Taking a Wireless WAN approach will become even more critical in the future as IoT technology becomes more prominent in places like fire departments. A stronger dependence on IoT devices presents the need for network interruption mitigation when IoT devices are communicating critical information. It also means taking a zero-trust approach to securing those devices, because they cannot be secured through user credentials. The right network hardware and network management software can help secure IoT transmissions through zero-trust features and allow departments to prioritise IoT transmissions during emergency situations.

Responding to a natural disaster

In times of natural disaster, clear, secure and uninterrupted communication can help prevent loss of life and potentially minimise damage to infrastructure and property.

When State Emergency Services arrive at a major flood site for example, an incident team often must set up a remote base of operations. In these cases, they need resilient communication that doesn’t stop just because there’s interference with the network. Often the right approach depends on where the flood is taking place. Based on the location, Wi-Fi may provide a sufficient connection and is therefore the primary technology powering the network. At other times, cellular, whether LTE or 5G, or satellite is the way to go.

The right routers can power a Wireless WAN approach that intelligently recognises and leverages the strongest transport type — whether it be Wi-Fi, LTE, 5G or even Satellite — and can switch if network circumstances change. With this approach, emergency personnel can communicate with headquarters and additional relevant parties as they work to save lives.

Now more than ever, first responders need a strong network that can match the fortitude and resilience they show as they respond to a crisis. A Wireless WAN approach that is secure, adaptable, and powered by the right management platform, can keep networks strong when first responders need them most.

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