Learning from disaster
From the four hurricanes that struck our home state of Florida last season through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, what did we learn from the terrible challenge of these natural disasters in the past months?
There were many problems and failures that must be addressed and resolved as we move forward. The devastating power of these storms made certain vulnerabilities and flaws all the more obvious, and there is intelligence to be gained from what happened under the worst possible circumstances.
Yet, one positive and hopeful yet sometimes overlooked conclusion stood out above the rest, and the reality is that we don’t say it emphasize it often enough: Land mobile radio (LMR) is, and should be, at the core of public-safety and disaster response communications and coordination.
Not cell phones or landline telephones or satellite phones or voice over IP. Can those communications tools be helpful in an emergency? Absolutely. But in severe disaster conditions, the switched public communications and commercial power infrastructures are most often the first to go down. In many situations, when they go back online, they are soon overloaded with traffic and congestion.
With LMR, you control your own system, your own operations, your own destiny. LMR equipment runs on portable batteries, vehicle batteries and backup generators. Mobile tactical repeaters with elevated antennas on vehicles can be moved when and where needed. Ready to go, direct and mobile communications, push to talk.
Do we need more backup radios, batteries and equipment to prepare in advance for catastrophic emergencies? Yes. Do we need to help drive the push for radio interoperability between agencies, for more radio spectrum to enable more users, for better connectivity between communications media, for stronger construction and protection of radio infrastructure, for more tough and rugged, durable, weatherproof, rock-solid radios? Yes.
But in the process of fixing the problems, developing better means of integration and intercommunications and improving our emergency and disaster response preparedness, let’s not forget the fundamentals of what we have learned and proved by many years of experience on the front lines.
LMRs has been, is now and will be for many years to come the primary tool for coordinating emergency and disaster response communications by public safety, military and government agencies.
Public safety depends on radios. That is the business focus we share, and we are proud to be of service in saving lives.
We’ve said it before; we’ll say it again, loud and clear. Make no mistake: Emergency response begins with radio communications.
David P. Storey is president and CEO of RELM Wireless, a manufacturer and marketer of mobile radio equipment for public safety and government agencies, as well as business-band radios serving a wide range of commercial applications.