‘Communication for life’. In response to Climate Change
Climate change is a reality and has multiple impacts on our lives. Many natural disasters are directly linked with this phenomenon, including wildfires, heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes, storms and floods.
Their frequency and magnitude are increasing. This is why the work of NGOs like Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) is paramount. All emergency response professionals have to be ready for this, as well as governments of those countries that are more likely to face these types of disasters.
As such, the work of TSF is two-fold: direct emergency response to the heart of a crisis and emergency response preparedness tailored to national and international responders.
Direct emergency response: to the heart of a crisis.
Take Hurricane Dorian that hit The Bahamas last September. Not only it was the most powerful hurricane ever making landfall in this country, but it has also been the second strongest in the whole Atlantic since 1950.
When the telecommunications network is down or saturated due a natural disaster such as a hurricane, the affected population has no means to contact their loved ones, let them know that they are alive and seek help.
This situation can sometimes last for days or even weeks.
Here comes TSF. This French NGO, specialised in new technologies and telecommunications, deploys emergency equipment in less than 24hrs.
Its teams reach the affected communities that have been identified as in need of communications.
They offer free phone calls and Wi-Fi connection using satellite equipment, which allows them to bypass the temporarily deficient terrestrial network and guarantees the ability to make that vital, reassuring link between the victims and their peers.
Only two days after Dorian’s passage over Abaco Island, TSF was already on the ground, helping the population: “They started crying when they heard my voice.
They were worried about me. Now I feel better, I can sleep better, I can eat better. Thank you guys, you made me so happy.” Said Pierreson, a 40-year-old Haitian leaving in The Bahamas.
He and his wife found refuge in a temporary shelter set up in a school. Thanks to TSF, he managed to talk to his family in Haiti for the first time after the hurricane and let them know that he was alive.
Another aspect of TSF’s emergency response is the support to humanitarian coordination.
In the Bahamas, TSF assisted the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) by establishing a satellite connection at the very first Emergency Coordination Centre set up in Abaco after the disaster.
This hub, along with a second one, installed a few days later to the benefit of the International Coordination managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), provided a high-speed connection to more than 25 humanitarian organisations working on the ground to save lives and start reconstruction.
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Emergency response preparedness: Capacity building for national and international responders.
TSF believes that training the emergency response community is vital. Recognised as leaders in its domain, TSF’s technology and communications specialists lead workshops across the world to help build self-sufficiency of local government agencies, iNGOs and international bodies.
TSF runs regularly theoretical and practical workshops on the use of satellite communications technologies, bandwidth optimisation, networks, GPS and tracking, and security communications.
They ensure that the agencies trained have the capacity to be self-sufficient telecommunications during the first emergency phase of a humanitarian crisis.
Recently, TSF technicians trained an ASEAN-ERAT team (Association of Southeast Asia Nations Emergency Response and Assessment Team).
The participants, composed of member state teams, learnt about TSF missions, its equipment and the roll-out of an emergency mission, including how to conduct humanitarian calling operations and how to set up telecommunication centres for emergency response coordination.
TSF is also committed to education. As such, the organisation has developed partnerships with educational institutions such as the Asian Institute of Technologies (AIT).
Twice a year, TSF’s IT experts train students of the AIT to diversify its pool of volunteers ready to go on mission in case of deployment in the Southeast Asian region.
Facing climate change
Hurricane Dorian is a sad example of the world’s possible future if no action is taken against climate change. More environmental disasters, more catastrophic damages, more people displacements… Besides trying to curtail our ecological footprint, we have to be prepared to face any type of climate events. TSF, as a leader in emergency technologies and telecommunications, will continue to monitor such events, and to be operational anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours.
They will keep up with their core mission to empower populations and humanitarians through reliable connectivity when and where it is needed most.
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