March 13 2015 after Tropical Cyclone Pam, international relief organisations including enablers for ICT were flown in to set up emergency communications system for the government and partners coordinating assessments and responses.
A scenario of wasteland with no communication between islands, and villages connected by bridges. Many institutions running VHF failed to prepare before TC Pam, Luganville were sharing Pro-medical’s satellite phones, people were driving long distances to as far as Velit Bay in Santo, to access satellite internet connections, phone and communication networks throughout the country are mostly down.
I was stationed with french Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), Telecoms Without Borders, deployed with Sanma’s Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), and they basically run satellite internet connections and satellite phones for communication.
TSF deployed emergency response teams from its International Headquarters in Europe and its Regional Base for Asia/Pacific (ROAP) and were preposition before 13 March in Brisbane, Australia, with the demand from United Nation.
IT and communication technology falls under logistics and support of the UN Disaster Response Team (DRTs), and many non-profit disaster response organisations have support from their corporate sponsors mostly in technology and airline business.
TSF were wearing 3 head caps, one is a Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection – European Commission (ECHO) and Inmarsat which is the British satellite telecommunications company running the broadband satellite network and mobile, and AirBus group.
PM’s office through Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and National Disaster Management Office with the Logistic cluster support team, and International Telecommunication Union coordinated the IT and communication technology response experts in the country and most were deployed on the affected island of Tanna.
Telstra provided the government with 25 satellite phones and 25 rapid satellite kits with long-life batteries to assist in providing an emergency communications system for the government to coordinate assessments and the large-scale response.
They also offer free calls to help their customers check on friends and relatives by offering free standard voice calls and texts for calls made from post paid mobiles and fixed lines to Vanuatu.
Ericsson Response team are a global initiative that provides communications expertise, equipment and resources in times of need and their aim is to assist humanitarian relief organizations with communications technology to contribute to a better and faster response to human suffering when disaster strikes, and they were also dispatched to Vanuatu,
Three telecommunication engineers from satellite system emergency.lu were also deployed with mission to restore the micro-computer network of the government and the network of FM radios between the capital Port Vila and the affected islands.
Many corporations supports these DRTs, and like emeregency.lu, Cargolux, Schenker Luxemburg and DHL Luxembourg assist with their transport, and SES TechCom and HITEC Luxembourg, offered satellite capacity for restoring communications.
Cisco TACOPS after their mission, they returned recorded deploying 15+ emergency networks and donating hundreds of ip-equipments to the government.
Communication is essential after disasters, and these enablers exist to support the phase of emergencies that affect communications, establishes IP-based communications for first responders, government agencies, relief organizations and others who require mission-critical connectivity to respond effectively.
But finally local Telcos – Telecom Vanuatu, Wantok, Telsat and Digicel’s technical teams from across the region came to support their counterparts in Vanuatu to help recover all the backbone communication network and local careers also assist in the response and recovery.
Other enablers not mentioned, I think all their success can be measured with the quick recovery.