Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Satellite Communications: Disaster Preparedness from June 2012 Article MilSat Magazine.

Disaster Preparedness: Hurricanes...
By Tony Bardo, Assistant Vice President for Government Solutions, Hughes

Already, 2012 has distinguished itself as a year of severe storms, with record-breaking tornado outbreaks this past winter in the United States.  With the hurricane season’s official start in June, first responders are preparing for the worst... last year’s biggest event, Hurricane Irene, caused more than $15 billion in damage and killed 49 people.  Meteorologists predict fewer named storms, but those that do form will have a greater proximity to the U.S. coastline, making forecasting more difficult and reducing warning lead-times. This makes emergency alerts to the public all the more important.

Today, as satellite technology displaces the older analog method of relaying emergency information, states and localities are employing digital satellite services to help enable a far more sophisticated form for their Emergency Alert Systems (EAS). In the past, alerts were disseminated with fax machines and then dispatched at the radio or television station. Today, federal government mandates require a multi-media process that can enable the transmission of images, audio and video files.

Satellite serves as an ideal medium. In 2011, the state of Alabama rolled out a state-of-the-art digital emergency communications system called GSSNet/Alert Studio, powered by the Hughes nationwide satellite service and terrestrial technologies. Developed and operated by Global Security Systems (GSS), Alabama’s emergency communications can disseminate alerts through a host of multimedia applications—road signs, cell phones, smart phones, reverse 911, TV and radio. As the message is based on the government’s digital Common Alert Protocol (CAP), audio quality is vastly improved.

The greatest advance that the system provides is immediacy. In the past, emergency alerts weren’t pushed to the public at the same time. Back then, a dispatcher needed to read the message and then pass it along, resulting in a sometimes catastrophic delay. Eliminating that delay can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. By using satellite technologies and the new digital messaging system, Alabama was able to completely remove the possibility of communication disruption.

With its proactive adoption of new satellite technology and coordinated information dissemination, Alabama is providing a model for other states of how to get the word out to the public as quickly and effectively as possible—helping citizens to reach safe haven as they ride out the storm.  Alerting citizens, however, is only half of the story. In a hurricane, traditional communications technologies can fail. Such leaves first responders stranded without the connections they need to coordinate emergency operations. Satellites can provide
that critical link to them.

Hughes has been hard at work developing the Inter-Government Crisis Network (IGCN), which uses satellite technology to connect emergency response institutions and local governments in a crisis. A private network, it acts like the Internet, but without being vulnerable to network outages from the actual Internet—allowing agencies to collaborate in a crisis, sharing data, voice, and video-teleconferencing nationwide.

With this capability, any number of site-to-site connections can be readily configured to connect. IGCN also allows for predefined user-groups, so a state agency could set up a video-conference link-up with all fire departments, or all police departments, or all responders in a certain geographic area. Many U.S. state and local governments have emergency operational plans in place to facilitate rapid response, addressing such critical activities as evacuation, sheltering, and distribution of supplies. By leveraging the power of satellite, government leaders can ensure that these critical plans can be carried out without disruption no matter what storms turn their way.

A key to the effort was arraying EAS decoders across the system. This avoids the complication of the Internet, firewalls or configuration issue—and replaces the system’s old dependence on phone lines. Now, even if phones go down, or if the Internet becomes congested, warning alerts will make it out.  With the use of satellite technology, messages can be generated from anywhere in the field and transmitted across the system, instead of first having to pass through the Emergency Operations Center.


Anthony “Tony” Bardo has 29 years of experience with strategic communication technologies that serve the complex needs of government. Since joining Hughes Network Systems in January 2006, Bardo has served as assistant vice president of Government Solutions, where he is focused on providing Hughes satellite broadband applications solutions to Federal, State, and Local governments. Bardo also recently served as Chair of the Networks and Telecommunications Shared Interest Group (SIG) for the Industry Advisory Council, an advisory body to the American Council for Technology (ACT).  Prior to joining Hughes, Bardo was with Qwest Government Services for nearly five years where he served as senior director of civilian agencies sales and marketing, senior director of marketing, and senior director of business development. Prior to Qwest, Bardo spent 14 years with the government markets group at MCI where he held the position of executive director for civilian agencies. During his tenure, his teams managed programs with the Federal Aviation Administration’s national air traffic control network, the Social Security Administration’s toll-free network, the U.S. Postal Service Managed Service Network, and the U.S. General Services Administration’s FTS2001. Mr. Bardo is a 1974 graduate of Virginia Tech where he majored in economics with a minor in public communications.


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