Helping Telecom & Emergency Responders Battle California's Wildfires

During California's 2018 wildfires, Network Innovations assisted one of America’s 4 largest telecom service providers with satellite-enabled disaster response solutions. 

California-Wildfire-BlogThe prevalence of wildfires ravaging communities, consuming acres upon acres of land, displacing wildlife, and people, seems like a seasonal occurrence these days. Like pumpkins and tombstones placed on front lawns pre-Halloween each year, smoky skies signal wildfire season. The intensity and frequency of these large, uncontrolled infernos is increasing due to climate change. Lower precipitation and warmer air temperatures are drying forests and vegetation out, creating fuel for fires to burn more fervently and extensively than in the past.

California’s 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record for the state at the time. A total of 8,527 fires charred an area of 1,975,086 acres, the largest area of burned acreage recorded in a fire season according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 24,226 structures were damaged or destroyed by the blaze, 103 lives lost, and researchers have quantified the economic costs of 2018’s golden state fires to be more than $150 billion in damages.

Amidst the chaos, the coordination of Santa Clara County’s firefighters was stunted when their providers slowed data speeds. This data throttling came to light in a brief filed as part of a lawsuit to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. "In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 (an incident support vehicle) was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds," county fire chief Anthony Bowden wrote. "These reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262's ability to function effectively."

In times of crisis, disaster response teams require fast data connections and voice communications to relay critical information and coordinate efforts. Verizon acknowledged the fault as a “customer support mistake” in a statement to NBC but, it does make you wonder – what happens when a major mobile carrier is tasked with responding to an emergency event? When their towers are burnt to a crisp, power stations have melted, and general infrastructure is depleted by the disaster, how do they continue to provide service?

Enter satellite communications.

When a disaster strikes, a natural reaction is pick up the phone to contact family and friends. However, the sheer volume of traffic generated during a disaster can result in an overloaded telecommunications network.

To remain prepared for these events, telecom companies will maintain a fleet of trucks or trailers equipped with satellite-enabled solutions to restore service for their subscribers, supply humanitarian aid and support for first responders, and provide remote communications, and location services for the disaster response teams themselves.

Satellites don’t fall out of the sky, hence being the last and most reliable piece of an emergency response plan for telecom service providers. In addition, where terrestrial infrastructure is susceptible to damages when disasters occur, satellites remain in orbit beaming signals far above the disaster site to reliably relay communications and data however remote the emergency location is.

During the 2018 California wildfires, Network Innovations assisted one of America’s 4 largest telecom service providers with satellite enabled disaster response solutions. By outfitting the fleet of emergency management vehicles with our MAVERICK VSAT service, the drive-away COLTs (cell on light truck) and COWs (cell on wheels) enabled the telecom company to support humanitarian aid and first responders. Our solutions helped to set up an emergency operations center with WiFi and supplies to aid first responders. These mobile trucks were deployed to Ventura and LA counties during the crisis, so displaced civilians could charge devices, access WiFi to contact loved ones, get status updates, use loaner mobile phones as needed, and get supplies like bottled water.

Network Innovations’ MAVERICK VSAT service is a turnkey satellite communication service offering flexibility, scalability, and reliability for public safety agencies and emergency response teams. Designed to integrate with any type of network, MAVERICK optimizes and accelerates traffic at a granular level so organizations can set policies to define the maximum amount of bandwidth that any site, cloud application, or individual user can consume. This level of control ensures strategic applications always have the bandwidth required for maximum performance and that real-time traffic like video and voice are protected or contained based on priority.

When emergency situations arise, having the reliability of satellite communication solutions to enable data transfers and voice communications is crucial. Staying connected, informed, and prepared allows emergency responders to mitigate further risk to human life and coordinate efforts to battle blazes with dedicated bandwidth and the support they need to relay critical information.

Network Innovation specializes in quick to deploy satellite communication solutions for critical connectivity when disasters devastate traditional networks. To learn more about our emergency response solutions, contact our team.