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Satellite phones and disaster areas: How they save lives

Satellite phones have shown to be increasingly indispensable during several types of emergencies.. Perfect examples include the İzmit earthquake (1999), the September 11 attacks (2001), the Kiholo Bay earthquake (2006), the Northeast blackouts (2003), Hurricane Katrina, the Minnesota bridge collapse (2007), the Chile earthquake (2010), and the Haiti earthquake (2010).

Reporters and journalists have also been using satellite phones to communicate and report on events in war zones such as Iraq.

Terrestrial cellular antennas and networks can be damaged by natural disasters, not saying that in some areas of the world they wouldn’t work even in normal conditions because of no coverage. Satellite phones can avoid this problem and be useful during, for example, natural disasters. Satellite phone networks themselves are prone to congestion as satellites and spot beams cover a large area with relatively few voice channels, which make them the most reliable solution in this cases.

As the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) once told lawmakers about satellite technology and the Hurricane Katrine, proves that this technology has a key role to play in disaster relief efforts due to the vulnerability of terrestrial communications infrastructure:

If we learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it is that we cannot rely solely on terrestrial communications,” Kevin Martin told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “When radio towers are knocked down, satellite communications are, in some instances, the most effective means of communicating.

Things to do in order to stay ready in case of emergency

Lessons learned from previous disasters has led to Iridium to take the following advance measures:

• Maintaining stock of equipment for emergencies

• Working with distribution partners to ensure supply chain continuity and facilitate rapid deployment

• Equipping phones with solar panels for charging in situations where the electrical grid is damaged

• Promoting pre-positioning of phones for preparedness

• Test your satellite phone week

What Governments should do as stated by Iridium

Governments should be prepared by taking some actions before the emergencies occur:

• Pre-positioning emergency equipment and solutions

• Developing alerting and early warning systems

• Training

• Maintaining Equipment