The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has launched new guidelines to help authorities develop and implement their national emergency telecommunication plans in response to the current pandemic.
The organization, in a blog post, wrote: “In the face of the global coronavirus crisis, as in any other emergency, the speed and efficiency of our response are proportional to the level of preparedness.
“These guidelines will assist national authorities and policymakers in developing policies and regulations that can ensure the continued use of telecommunication networks and services before, during and after a disaster.”
The guidelines set out a strategy to reduce the strains on communication networks, and, in ITU’s words: “Ensure communication availability during the phases of disaster mitigation”.
In ITU's document, the organization suggests coordination and engagement across all levels of government, humanitarian agencies, service providers and communities at risk to aid preparedness and response.
The guidelines also highlight major risks during a disaster and provides arguments for further funding of emergency equipment and personnel.
The crux of the organization’s advice falls on maintaining vital communications to make sure the authorities can appropriately act and coordinate.
"When disaster strikes there is no time to think about what to do and how to organize a response. It is crucial that all stakeholders are prepared beforehand and ready to take action," says Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.
"Mock exercises including tabletop, talk-through and walk-through exercises to full-scale drills, help to ensure smooth emergency response among those involved in disaster management and communications."
The guidelines were written with help from a number of companies in the emergency field. One such contributor was the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC). ETC provides network services to countries that are experiencing troubles such as disease, war or natural disasters.
Aiding the ITU, the duo developed a Tabletop Emergency Simulation Guide.
“With the growing frequency and complexity of disasters, it's vital to test, identify and close any gaps in national readiness. The scenarios in this simulation guide will make it easier for all stakeholders to do that ahead of time," says ETC’s Enrica Porcari, who is also the CIO and director of the UN World Food Programme’s Technology Division.
"The exceptional Covid-19 crisis we are going through right now shows how vital information and communication technology networks and services are, both to respond to the current pandemic and to address disaster management," says ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
"Now more than ever, the implementation of comprehensive national emergency telecommunication plans can ensure there is effective and timely sharing of information across all levels of government, within affected communities and among humanitarian agencies to prioritize response efforts and to save lives."