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Issue 10: SACRI White Paper

White Paper on Emergency Communications

Prepared by the Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI) at
George Washington University
January 5, 2006

Download the full paper in PDF (1.3 MB)

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Note: This White Paper draws a number of sources including presentations at the National Conference on Emergency Communications (NCEC) held at the George Washington University on December 12-13, 2005. This conference featured some thirty different speakers selected from the federal as well as state and local governments, a wide range of industry spokespeople, several professional societies, relief organizations and NGOs, universities, and other interested parties. There were thirty different sponsors. The press release for the event can be found on the GWU website: ( is no longer active).

The sponsors are also listed in the Appendices attached to this report. This White Paper also includes elements drawn from relevant web sites and many other documents prepared by concerned academic, standards and industry organizations who have offered information and recommendations about emergency communications as well as warning and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Pakistan Earthquake and the Asian Tsunami. Although this White Paper has been extensively coordinated with many individuals including speakers at the NCEC and its sponsors the views expressed in this document are solely those of the team at George Washington University that prepared this report.

Executive Summary and Major Findings:

"The hardest part of improving emergency warning and recovery efforts is changing human behavior. We must concentrate not only on upgrading communications and power systems locally but also on training first responders so that they are familiar with the use of these resources and comfortable on a day-to-day basis in how to use of this equipment. This is key because human and cultural behavior is extremely difficult to change and ultimately all disasters are local and recovery is largely dependent on local first responder capabilities." --Gary Briese, Executive Director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs… from keynote address at the NCEC on Dec. 13, 2005.

"There are special opportunities presented by the increased availability of the 700 MHz band for emergency communications as well as the FCC mandated requirement to deploy by 2013 new radio telecommunications units with narrower band channels. Thus, if steps are taken now, we can ensure the widespread migration in the U.S. to new communications equipment that is interoperable, more multi-band, more power efficient, more easily rechargeable, water proof, and otherwise more flexible and adapted to the needs of modern emergency recovery operations. We need help from industry and governments at all levels to make this happen." --Glen Nash, State of California and Former President of APCO… from Keynote address at NCEC on December 12, 2005.

"Emergencies are by definition a 'come as you are' party and this means that you need to pre-position recovery communications, satellite handsets and power restoration equipment at strategic locations BEFORE the event occurs. Other key steps involve the carrying out of training and simulation events, reserving satellite and other communications capacity and strategic planning for disaster strikes." --Richard Dal Bello, V. P. Intelsat General… from remarks at NCEC on Dec. 13, 2005.

"Most emergency management training in this country targets first responder training but the State of Virginia EMTAS (Emergency Management Training, Analysis & Simulation Center) targets the operational level--the key level for decision-making, where the tactical response and strategic and political requirements come together." --Governor Mark Warner, State of Virginia… from HS Today Nov. 2005 Vol. 2. No. 11, p. 4.

"If we learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it is that we cannot rely solely on terrestrial communications." --FCC Chairman Kevin Martin…citation is included from part of Satellite Industry Association testimony to U.S. Congress.


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