4. Telecommunications and IT assessments and planning
- Assess the telecommunications and IT options available and ensure the assessment team has adequate primary and back-up means of communication.
- Determine the telecommunication requirements for response operations, and develop and implement a telecommunications and IT systems plan.
The assessment and operational planning process should include an analysis of the telecommunications and IT requirements for the response. The telecoms and IT assessment should record the current inventory and assess what is available locally or can be rapidly procured. The impact of the disaster on communications infrastructure, and the functionality of systems for immediate and future requirements for the CARE operations, need to be quickly assessed.
During an emergency, almost any means of communications will be useful. Even old equipment that is still operational can be very useful. An old radio handset may be reprogrammed to work with a new repeater system. An old, slow computer will prove to be useful when nothing else is available. However, when buying new equipment, it is important to purchase equipment that will be useful not only for the emergency, but also for the CO programmes after the emergency has subsided. A full guide to telecommunications in CARE COs was developed by CARE Norway, Concept, standards and procedures for CARE International emergency telecommunications. This comprehensive guide to all forms of telecommunications is attached as Annex 20.3 Draft telecommunications minimum standards.
Recommended IT equipment standards for procurement can be obtained through your Lead Member. Due to the rapid pace of change of technology, these may need to be nuanced, and should generally be taken as a guide.
Before commencing assessment and planning, be familiar with the options available, such as:
- landline telephones
- mobile cell phones
- portable satellite phones
- portable satellite terminals
- VSAT terminals
- VHF radio systems
- HF radio systems.
Full details on each of these are provided in section 5.
Initial pre-planning and equipping must be done before the assessment, so that the assessment team has adequate communications and back-up systems to ensure their safety and facilitate an effective assessment. Before deploying an assessment team, do the following:
- Conduct an initial assessment of telecommunications and IT requirements with available information to determine the equipment requirements suitable for the assessment and the initial response stages of the emergency.
- Determine what is immediately available to the assessment team. Consider existing CO resources as well as CARE International, Regional Management Units (RMUs) and CARE International Member resources available for loan, or possibilities for immediate procurement.
- In an emergency where there is no CARE presence, assume there are no operational telecoms available to the assessment team. Some national telephone services may be available to the team when in the base office. When assessing the availability of telecoms, satellite telephones would be the minimum requirements for each group within the assessment team. This is a basic requirement that does not require an in-country assessment (see section 12 Additional guidelines for non-presence operations).
- Satellite phones for use by the assessment mission should be hand-carried by team members into the country and to the assessment location. Be aware that in some countries, there are restrictions on bringing in satphones and similar equipment. Check with the Country Office about regulations and how they are enforced.
- Ensure all assessment team members have telecoms equipment and are trained in its use before deploying the team to the field.
- Programme all required contact numbers into phones, and ensure all assessment team members are aware of the communications protocols and contacts.
It is very important to know exactly what communications equipment is available to the emergency response staff, and to assess what their needs are likely to be during the assessment and during the following response.
- Assess the impact of the disaster on telecommunications and IT infrastructure.
- Prepare an inventory of telecommunications systems as soon as possible. This should list all communication systems and assets available in the country. See Annex 20.6 Telecommunications and IT inventory.
- Coordinate with other stakeholders to identify what systems and resources are being used by the broader humanitarian community.
- Obtain information on any government regulations that apply. There are often restrictions on using radios (in addition to import restrictions).
- Investigate the availability of telecommunications and IT equipment in local and regional markets. It is important that approximate costs and lead times (time to purchase and install) are known to the team at this time, as these factors can affect their decision-making.
- Meet with the Country Director, Security, Programme and Emergency officers to determine what telecommunications systems and equipment will best suit the needs of the office and response teams.
- Determine which combination of systems will be most useful for the emergency.
- A basic system that is usable under many difficult circumstances in many locations around the world is a set of Iridium hand phones for voice, with a BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) for internet connections. VHF radio should also be included in all high-security risk areas.
- For satellite hand phones, determine the system to be used (Iridium or Thuraya). Be sure to check local coverage (Iridium is global and the Thuraya covers the Middle East and Africa).
- Determine satellite hand phone equipment requirements including:
- number of handsets required
- number of car adaptor kits required
- office requirements. A satellite hand phone with an outdoor antenna (docking station) is recommended as a main office contact phone point
- For satellite internet connection, determine the system to be used (see section 5 for telecommunications systems options). Consider requirements for internet only and/or telephone and internet.
- For radio, determine:
- what system (HF/VHF) is required
- number of base station radios required
- number of radio handsets required
- number of vehicle radio sets required
- Determine IT requirements (see Annex 20.8 Computing/telecommunications assessment checklist), including:
- number of additional computers required
- internet service availability and options (local service providers, satellite terminals)
- any special software requirements (for example, photo processing or satellite terminal software)
- IT support requirements (for example, printers for field, flash drives)
- Determine power supply requirements, including uninterruptible power supply (UPS) generator, in coordination with administration staff (see section 6.3).
- With this list of requirements, make a detailed list of all equipment required to fulfil these needs.
- Compare these requirements with what is available now by using the current inventory already compiled to determine additional equipment needs-noting that team requirements may change once exact details are known about the time to purchase and install the equipment, and the cost.
- Propose a plan reflecting the assessment for telecommunications and IT systems required for the emergency. Refer to sample chart(s) demonstrating telecommunications and IT systems in Annex 20.7 Telecommunication system expansion checklist, which shows example diagrams for computing/IT, and HF and VHF radio systems, in section 5.
- The Country Director or emergency team leader should approve the proposed telecommunications and IT plan.
- The Country Director or emergency team leader should confirm availability of funds to procure additional telecommunications and IT support requirements.
- Proposal and budget writers should be informed of telecommunications and IT support requirements so that costs can be included in budgets being developed for emergency projects.
- The Telecommunications and IT Support Manager should submit requests for purchase of equipment to the procurement department, with all technical details specified.
- The Country Director and Telecommunications and IT Support Manager should ensure telecommunications procurement requests are given the highest priority as a prerequisite for staff security.
- Assign telecommunications and IT hardware to staff in accordance with the plan, and provide training in use .
- Implement communications protocols and provide training in practice (see section 9).