Emergency preparedness is one of the major concerns in the development of information technology, especially in the area of telecommunications. Computer-related innovations have brought about a myriad of concerns especially because of the continued development. These concerns are majorly based on disaster aversion, risk mitigation, planning and preparing for disasters in this field. The continued cyberspace revolution presents the negative aspects of such exponential growth while the benefits to social living are immeasurable (Quarantelli, 1997). These advances face some prominent failures such as the complete computer system failure of a communications device. This paper is an analysis of possible risks to computer systems and the possible disaster planning and management techniques that could be used to overcome these challenges.
Possible Disasters in Telecommunication Technology
A disaster can be said to exist when the need overwhelms the resources. This creates a situation of serious need requiring the emergency redirecting of resources towards the particular course of action (Quarantelli, 1997). The response need is effectually higher than the response capability available (ITU-T, 2013). Communication is key in times of disaster, especially because of the ability to have emergency response communication between teams. As such, the failure to have effective communication networks in times of disaster cold prove to be very costly to the exercise of disaster management. The Japanese case of the 2011 tsunami offers valuable lessons to the development of disaster management and response. Some of the issues that were faced in the course of this natural disaster was the jamming and overcrowding of mobile networks, the large-scale destruction of mobile stations leading to communication challenges, and large-scale damage of communication lines.
Large-scale losses were incurred during the tsunami of 2011. The pictorial shows a sharp decline in services in month following the tsunami. Nonetheless, the Japanese workforce had a 10,000-person strong recovery effort team so that the communications could be restored soonest possible. As such, the effect was not as largely felt as would be the case in other areas. Congestion was caused by peoples attempts to reach each other to know whether they were affected were some of the needs that were found at this time. As such, times of disaster have higher needs for communication infrastructure. The Japanese case study was one of the good examples of disaster management put in place. A consideration that even submarine lines were cut off by the tsunami meant that international communication lines were also cut during this time. Internet services, despite not being widely used in Eastern Japan, were used a lot during this time, especially on the email platform.
The telecommunication lines were thus brought online again after a very short time and other services to the people were equally restored within a very short time. This thus presents the best possible approach that we can adopt in the best model for restoration of telecommunication services in times of disaster and the adoption of practices aimed at mitigating losses due to telecommunications failures. Disaster management planning and management is thus key in ensuring that there is an ability to bounce back from a disaster that could possibly affect the functionality of communication services.
Disaster Management Approaches
One of the applications of the Japanese system was the setting up of backup systems that came online during the disaster. According to the NTT, backups came online right after the disaster. These back-up systems ensured that there was communication even right after the disaster and were able to support heavy traffic in the country at the time. Despite the heavy losses in terms of infrastructure, an adequate number of backup systems put in place ensured that there were communication lines still open in the course of restoration processes. Internet services were reported to have recovered by 66% just two weeks after the disaster and were fully operational within the month. The backup systems available even for submarine communication systems enabled the proper management of these resources. Autonomous power supply systems that were used for back-up during the first 72 hours of emergency response were key in ensuring that the Japanese communication systems remained functional right after the tsunami.
Furthermore, equipment was stored in locations that were not affected by the tsunami. Japanese technology has been installed at areas that are possibly least affected by natural disasters. These areas are defined as the highest and driest possible places in the geography of the country. Therefore, during disasters, the likelihood of such equipment being affected by adverse weather conditions is minimal. This explains why the Japanese communication systems remained online despite the destruction of the majority of other services. If we refer to the table above, very few people were affected by the destruction of telecommunication channels because the equipment is well-placed in anticipation of such disasters. Therefore, only very little infrastructure was affected by the tsunami because of their strategic placement.
In addition, the use of infrastructure was made so that there was minimal use of aerial resources for the telecommunication infrastructure. We consider that aerial technology is bound to be damaged due to the weather changes that would be experienced in the course of such adverse conditions such as strong winds, static charges in the atmosphere among other forces. Therefore, the minimal use of aerial infrastructure in the telecommunications facilities meant that minimal damage was done to infrastructure, limiting the damage that was occasioned to systems. Inland communication systems also minimized the damage that would have been done if the country depended wholly on submarine systems of communication. Therefore, the Japanese approach was all-rounded in its nature to protect against unforeseen damage.
Additional Future Preparation Techniques
Further efforts can be made to the Japanese case study, and indeed in other scenarios, to ensure a graceful transition from disaster, especially in the telecommunications area. When the Japanese disaster was at its peak, there was a high dependence on the voice servicing, which became overloaded due to overuse. Everyone was calling to try and know if their loved ones were alright after the disaster. The result was that the voice services became unavailable after a very short time. Future programming could be tuned in such a way that there is a diversion of resources to voice services during emergencies so as to avoid a similar situation. The reduction of other services such as cloud computing could be implemented in favor of voice services which are critical at this point.
In line with this, call durations could be limited for the purposes of service to everyone as opposed to a selected few. This is because at this point, the service is required by a majority of the people in the country. Call quality could also be reduced in favor of volumes to accommodate the large number of incoming and outgoing calls. This is, again, because of large volumes expected in this time period. In addition, people should be encouraged to engage in other forms of communication including text messaging, email among others, which were having good reception during the emergency periods.
The Japanese scenario gives a good account of possible telecommunication challenges that could be faced and adequate ways of dealing with such challenges. As such, it is critical that disaster preparedness, mitigation and management techniques be put in place to ensure that disasters affecting telecommunication systems can survive such disasters, or be quickly repaired. Some strategies include high altitude infrastructure, limited aerial infrastructure and an attitude of less dependence on submarine communication lines. Furthermore, other options can be considered in the case of limited communication including alternative communication methods such as email and text messaging, reduced call qualities in favor of call volumes and reduction of services that would not be considered vital during emergencies such as cloud computing.
ITU-T. (2013). Technical Report on Telecommunications and Disaster Mitigation. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union.
NTT Group. (2011). Restoration Status for Damage Caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Future Responses. Retrieved from NTT Group: http://www.ntt.co.jp/ir/library_e/nttis/2011sum/disaster.html
Quarantelli, E. (1997). Problematical aspects of the information/ communication revolution for disaster planning and research: ten nontechnical issues and questions. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, 97-106.
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