In the world of emergency communications, there are hundreds of vendors, each offering powerful solutions to help first responders and emergency operations centers communicate during times of crisis. Yet in a field awash with solutions, every time a disaster strikes it seems we still face communications problems.

The problems typically stem from three primary sources: landlines and cellular systems suddenly overwhelmed beyond capacity, a communications infrastructure that is damaged or even destroyed, and incompatibility among disparate systems used by emergency agencies.

In a crowded market, it's difficult to know which way to turn for the right solution — one that can overcome the obstacles of emergency situations. Yet selecting the wrong one can make the difference between saving people and property or having to stand by helplessly without the necessary information to address evolving emergency situations.

One of the easiest ways to ensure you select and implement a viable communications infrastructure is to rely on a security-focused systems integrator. An SI can evaluate your needs, map those needs to existing solutions on the market and implement commercially available technologies in new and creative ways. Sis ensure technologies are interoperable, rugged and secure.

As an example of the creativity Sis apply in the area of emergency communications, consider the “communications on the move” solutions brought to market during the past year. These solutions create mobile operations centers on the fly that can operate even when the local communications infrastructure is unusable.

Well-constructed, communications-on-the-move solutions link existing technologies to enable seamless switching among transmission mediums such as satellite, Wi-Fi, voice over IP (VoIP), cellular over IP and others. This ensures connection to a wide array of IP-based communications solutions such as high-speed Internet, voice over wireless IP, two-way video surveillance, video teleconferencing, mesh wireless radar, ground-based sensor monitoring and radio frequency interoperability. The solutions can even provide high-speed broadband connectivity to vehicles moving faster than 60 miles per hour. The solutions can be built with the highest levels of security so they can be used by regional response organizations, including U.S. Department of Defense units.

First responders would be able to communicate with each other and stay connected for voice, video and data transmissions, regardless of the state of the infrastructure. New infrastructure could be set up in a fixed location or moved if needed for a mobile operation. This “everything-over-IP solution” eliminates interoperability challenges by integrating all communications over a single network.

This is just one example of the value of bringing in an SI that knows the industry, understands the challenges posed by virtually any type of emergency scenario and that can address an organization's needs, despite all of the significant challenges.

Reports from major disaster areas often include the phrase “cut off from the outside world.” With a good systems integrator by your side, you will be connected to the technologies and people that can help you realize a positive emergency response.

Brendan Malloy is senior vice president and general manager of Telos Corp.'s secure networks division.