Emergency Communications Organisation | www.emergencycomms.org
Issue 01 Journal
Inform | Communicate | Respond
Issue 01 - Spring 2013

ITU logoThe View from the Top

Robert Alcock discusses Public Protection and Disaster Relief with Hiroshi Ota of the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union)

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Photo © pakaworld
Photo © pakaworld

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the oldest division of the United Nations, and the only organisation still running from the League of Nations before. The ITU has the responsibility for regulating and standardising all telecommunications globally, every piece of comms kit you use is run to their standards and regulations.

It was important to the ITU that they were involved with us as an organisation, to help the front line responders realise how they are helping you and how they can help you. Hiroshi is the man responsible for Disaster Relief at ITU – T, the standardisation arm of The ITU.

Q: Could you explain to us a little of the different divisions in this area and there purpose in aiding first responders and how that is achieved?
A: It is important to realise that we are not just a regulatory body and we help out in practical ways as well. Japan’s Tsunami in 2011 was a typical ITU response to disaster, as well as providing practical assistance in form of aiding the correct communications process, we also physically brought Satellite Phones to aid the first responders, we take our role in this area seriously.

The ITU is split into three main groups ITU–T, my division that look at standards, ITU–R which is Radio Communications and Spectrum and BDT or ITU–D that looks and aids development, all three help in different ways in the area of disaster relief and emergency communications.

ITU – T for the past 12 and half years have been collating information and seeking information on emergency communications and disaster relief, it allows us to provide our working groups with the correct perspectives when standardising in these areas.

This also involves looking at requirements that other organisations, such as Amateur Radio Organisations and involving them in the process, this is a huge resource and can provide an on the ground immediate response without delay if utilised correctly.

ITU–D is there to help combat in detail the response issues in three ways:

  • Preparation Phase – to look at early warning systems, 30 seconds in the case of Earthquakes or two to three hours in the case of Tsunami can make the difference in saving lives. We look at the use of mobile technology, Sirens and Public address systems.
  • Response Phase – To look at the problems that occur during disaster, allocating the correct resources immediately through the infrastructure, the main problems faced are heavy usage and lack of infrastructure. So it is providing a combined response to the frontline responders that allows them to do their job not worry if they can communicate.
  • Recovery and reconstruction phase – Short term is really as above making sure the facilities are there to save and re provide services. Long term is to replace damaged infrastructure and to look at pro-active safe guards for the future.

ITU–R looks at and provides the backbone standards for spectrum allocation etc.

Radio communication services have become extremely important to Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) organizations to the extent that PPDR communications are highly dependent upon a range of radio communication services, particularly the mobile service. Our experience from recent major disaster events has shown that at times, these agencies are solely dependent on radio communication services as the only form of communications available.

In order to provide effective communications, PPDR agencies and organisations have a set of objectives and requirements that include interoperability between agencies and staff in the field, reliability, functionality, security in operations and fast call set-up for rapid access to wider communication networks. Considering that the functional needs of PPDR agencies and organizations are growing, future advanced solutions used in PPDR applications will require higher data rates than narrow-band solutions predominantly in use today, along with video and multimedia capabilities ITU–R provides recommendations on the use of harmonized frequency bands for PPDR applications, cross-border circulation of equipment, interoperability between agencies, the use of advanced technologies as well as encouragement to manufacturers of equipment used in PPDR to take into account the needs of administrations and PPDR agencies.

Q: Could you Suggest some reports that would be of benefit to our members in this area?
A: Recommendation ITU-R M.1042 “Disaster communications in the amateur and amateur-satellite services” provides guidance on the roles of the amateur and amateur satellite services in providing communications during disaster situations.

Report ITU-R M.2085 “Role of the amateur and amateur-satellite services in support of disaster mitigation and relief” is intended to document the role of the amateur and amateur-satellite services in provision of radio communications in support of disaster mitigation and relief. It includes information developed after the South-East Asia tsunami in December 2004.

Recommendation ITU-R M.1637 “Global cross-border circulation of radio communication equipment in emergency and disaster relief situations” offers guidance to facilitate the global circulation of radio communication equipment in emergency and disaster relief situations including the need for plans and procedures to be in place before a possible disaster event in order to facilitate the speedy authorization of the use of such equipment.

Report ITU-R M.2033 “Radio communication objectives and requirements for Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR)” defines the PPDR objectives and requirements for the implementation of future advanced solutions to satisfy the operational needs of PPDR organizations around the year 2010. Specifically, it identifies objectives, applications, requirements, a methodology for spectrum calculations, spectrum requirements and solutions for interoperability.

Recommendation ITU-R M.2015Frequency arrangements for public protection and disaster relief radio communication systems in UHF bands in accordance with Resolution 646 (Rev.WRC 12)” provides guidance on frequency arrangements for public protection and disaster relief radio communications in certain regions in some of the bands below 1 GHz identified in Resolution 646 (Rev.WRC-12).

Recommendation ITU-R M.2009 “Radio interface standards for use by public protection and disaster relief operations in some parts of the UHF band in accordance with Resolution 646 (WRC 03)” identifies radio interface standards applicable for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) operations in some parts of the UHF band.

Recommendation ITU-R M.1826 addresses harmonized frequency channel plans in the band 4 940 4 990 MHz for broadband public protection and disaster relief radio communications in Regions 2 and 3.

Recommendation ITU-R M.1746 addresses system interoperability and harmonized frequency channel plans for the protection of property using data communication.

These can all be accessed at our website www.itu.int

Q: Do you feel that people in this area understand the role that you play correctly and how long you have been doing it?
A: Well the main thing to understand is how long we have been working in this area, we provided the first SOS standard in 1906. We are working on CAP allowing a warning message across all systems including mobile and fix networks. Numbering for one, international emergency number etc. We are looking at new ways to help and assist constantly.

Q: Finally what is your view of the new Emergency Communications Organisation?
A: With over 500 members already in less than six months, the need for the organisation is obviously there. Delivering the correct information, to the correct people, across the spectrum of required knowledge will enable the organisation's effectiveness when working with different organisations and commercial companies.

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