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Keeping Communications Flowing During Large-scale Disasters: Leveraging Amateur Radio Innovations for Disaster Medicine

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2017

Victor H. Cid*
Affiliation:
Disaster Information Management Research Center, Specialized Information Services Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland
Andrew R. Mitz
Affiliation:
Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Stacey J. Arnesen
Affiliation:
Disaster Information Management Research Center, Specialized Information Services Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland
*
Correspondence and reprint requests to Victor H. Cid, 6707 Democracy Boulevard, Suite 440, Bethesda, MD 20892 (email: victor.cid@nih.gov).

Abstract

Medical facilities may struggle to maintain effective communications during a major disaster. Natural and man-made disasters threaten connectivity by degrading or crippling Internet, cellular/mobile, and landline telephone services across wide areas. Communications among staff, between facilities, and to resources outside the disaster area may be lost for an extended time. A prototype communications system created by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) provides basic communication services that ensure essential connectivity in the face of widespread infrastructure loss. It leverages amateur radio to provide resilient email service to local users, enabling them to reach intact communications networks outside the disaster zone. Because amateur radio is inexpensive, always available, and sufficiently independent of terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure, it has often augmented telecommunications capabilities of medical facilities. NLM’s solution is unique in that it provides end-user to end-user direct email communications, without requiring the intervention of a radio operator in the handling of the messages. Medical staff can exchange email among themselves and with others outside the communications blackout zone. The technology is portable, is deployable on short notice, and can be powered in a variety of ways to adapt to the circumstances of each crisis. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018;12:257–264)

Type
Concepts in Disaster Medicine
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2017 

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