As the use of high speed satellite internet access for emergency services spreads across the globe, the UK and Canada are not going to be left behind. Satellite communications have become vital to coordinating operations in the field during large scale emergencies in remote areas, as well as for directing efforts fighting forest fires. Lives are saved and efficiency is greatly enhanced by the use of satellite access.
In the UK, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue is updating their Command Vehicle with new technologies in order to more effectively deal with emergencies occurring beyond the range of normal communications. Satellite broadband internet access will enable them
to tie into the base computers and use any information or resources available there. In addition, firefighters on the scene will be able to share up-to-date information with other agencies involved and coordinate movements and efforts between them. No longer tied to landlines, the fully equipped command center will be a potent ally, bringing the headquarters right to the scene.
Furthermore, the department is planning to use the command vehicle with its high speed internet as a mobile outreach center. They look forward to being able to bring education and fire safety programs to rural areas as part of their Community Fire Safety program.
Across the globe in Canada, Ontario firefighters are anticipating their own satellite communications-equipped Emergency Response Vehicle. In the meantime, Canadians have already taken advantage of the technology involved. Both the European Space Agency and NASA have been instrumental in Canada’s battle with wildfires in their Northwest regions.
During a recent forest fire in British Columbia, landline telephone communications were non-existent, radios were ineffective, and the sole means of communication between the various groups fighting the fire was via satellite. Extremely rugged terrain complicated the issue. A new approach was needed to support the 180 firefighters battling the blaze and one was brought in: REMSAT.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has created a system for coordinating the technologies of satellite communication such as GPS, communication, internet, and Earth observation through a ground station system called REMSAT (Real-time Emergency Management via Satellite), deliverable by truck or helicopter. This self-contained unit provides the essential link between firefighters, helicopters, aircraft, and situation managers. It provides mapping and location data, satellite imagery and, via email, photos to keep staff current on the situation and allows for planning and forecasting events.
The ability to deliver high speed internet access to remote locations is crucial to firefighters worldwide. The people on the ground often have no idea of the overall situation and are dependent on someone from the outside to keep track of things and guide them in their tasks. With satellite communications their managers have access to many sources of information and are able to see the broad view in order to direct response efforts much more efficiently.
High speed satellite communications have already proven their worth in many ways. Only the future can tell how much more valuable this technology will become in the future.