2. Telecommunications and security
- Ensure staff understand that telecommunications are essential for staff safety and security.
- Ensure that back-up communications systems are available.
- Ensure staff know and follow basic communication protocols.
Telecommunications systems support many aspects of emergency operations, but the most critical function is to support the safety of staff. Effective telecoms allow staff members to be in contact with their base to help ensure their safety at all times. Appropriate management of staff safety and security requires CARE offices to be able to monitor the movement and locations of staff in the field at all times. In crisis situations, circumstances often change by the minute and it is important to be able to notify staff members to avoid dangerous areas or to return to the office when, for example, levels of violence are increasing near the areas where staff may be working or travelling. If a security incident does occur, staff must be able to immediately call for urgent help.
A working draft of the ‘CARE minimum security telecommunications support (MISTS)‘ is shown in pages 19-21 of the CARE Norway guidelines, Concept, standards and procedures for CARE International emergency telecommunications. A full copy of the guidelines and procedures is in Annex 20.3 Draft telecommunications minimum standards. Also, section 3.2 of the CARE International safety and security handbook covers communications. Pages 21-25 cover safety and security procedures, and are attached as Annex 20.4 CARE International safety and security handbook
CARE staff in the field must always have access to at least two communications systems at all times in case one system fails. The Telecommunications and IT Support Manager must ensure that back-up telecoms systems are in place for all staff. Back-up systems allow remote offices and staff to communicate if the primary system fails. An effective back-up system usually involves a mix of landline or cell phones as primary systems, and radio or satellite phone as secondary systems. Telephone systems are often not reliable during emergencies, and the primary system may start out being a satellite phone (for example, Thuraya) with the back-up system being a different satellite phone system (for example, Iridium) or transceiver radios (VHF or HF).
Telecommunications systems are only effective for staff security if staff can use them properly and follow basic communication protocols. More information about communication protocols is included in section 9, and in Chapter 3.9 of the CARE International safety & security handbook. The minimum requirements for communication protocols are as follows.
- Ensure base station radios and telephones (head office or emergency contact) are monitored at all times.
- Provide all staff with emergency contact numbers and instructions on who to contact in the event of a critical incident. See section 1.4 Safety and security responsibilities of the CARE International safety & security handbook.
- Establish a schedule for regular contact during the emergency and during travel to regional locations.
- All staff on field travel must communicate departure and arrival times, and confirm safety and location with the base station at agreed times.
- When calling, always say who you are and where you are calling from. Pass on the message and the current situation, and when and where you expect to move to next.
- It is very important for staff members to speak slowly and clearly when using any form of long-distance communications system.
- Always keep calls brief, as this reduces the chance of errors and allows others to make calls on the same system.