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Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Preparedness Measures for Operational Continuity

Emergency Communications
Satellite is Essential

Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1 and will run until Nov. 30. In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, hurricane season began May 15 and ends Nov. 30, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). However, according to the NWS Climate Prediction Center, storms will reach peak activity (categorical strength and frequency) between August and October.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has obviously been very active already.  In August, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and disrupted at least 17 Texas-area emergency call centers and 320 cellular sites, and led to outages for more than 148,000 Internet, TV, and phone customers. More recently, according to the FCC, Hurricane Irma downed eighty-two percent of cell sites in the Florida Keys and other parts of Monroe County, Florida. Statewide, as many as 24 percent of Floridians were left without service and millions of homes without power.

This year's tumultuous hurricane season reinforces two facts: You cannot predict exactly when or where a storm will strike, but you can prepare to mitigate the effects when one is imminent. It is essential that businesses and government agencies, alike, work in advance to ensure continuity of operations during and after disasters, which means having the ability to respond to immediate citizen and customer needs.

Hughes has taken lessons learned from years of experience supporting emergency management teams and government agencies, in weather-related events such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, and has developed a short list of basic preparation measures, with an easy-to-remember acronym, B.E.S.T.I., to help government agencies and businesses prepare for operations during and after a hurricane.

  • BACK UP- Implement a path-diverse network backup solution to supplement terrestrial network connectivity. Satellite backup delivers seamless backup service that can keep mission critical applications up and online during and after a Hurricane.
  • ELECTRIFY- Implement at least one back-up generator, corded telephone and portable battery charger with extra batteries on hand to keep your technology running, even if the electrical grid goes down.
  • SEND UP- Save and back-up data frequently, storing the data in the Cloud or in a separate facility away from the potential hurricane impact area as local hardware can be at risk to potential flooding conditions.
  • TRAIN- Develop and practice executing thorough Continuity of Operations (COOP) and emergency response plans for local facilities and staff.
  • INVENTORY- Evaluate which applications and information systems are essential to operate. This can include emergency response plans, accounting documents, inventory logs and constituent information. Networks often become congested during disaster relief and it can help if applications on the network can be prioritized based on criticality.  

Ultimately, an efficient disaster response is difficult to execute without reliable communications. When cell phone towers are damaged and terrestrial circuits are under flood waters, satellite broadband service helps ensure organizations can still respond to and maintain day-to-day operations like coordinating rescue assistance, fielding and responding to 9-1-1 calls, sending texts, emails and attachments, processing orders, sharing situational awareness information and inventory data.

It’s important for agencies and businesses to review internal emergency preparedness measures on an annual basis because it is easy to fall complacent, whether we have one or several years pass by with no major storm activity. When this happens, budget dollars reserved for preparedness efforts can be subject to re-allocation if there isn’t a disaster fresh in our minds. However, when those emergency resources are reserved and immediately available in the face of a major disaster, response efforts are generally far more streamlined in standing up reaction and recovery operations.


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