the front lines
Hurricanes have long been a destructive natural force; storm surges and waves can reach over 20 feet high, torrential rain and flooding destroys homes and infrastructure and high-speed winds uproot trees and topple power systems. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record. Of the 30 named storms, 11 hit the U.S. coastline and seven reached Category 3 status or higher.
The job of first responders and frontline workers in a hurricane remains to protect the public and restore normalcy as quickly as possible. Emergency personnel across federal, state and local agencies collaborate at all stages of the natural disaster—evacuating civilians in advance, managing boots-on-the-ground rescue operations and coordinating the recovery effort.
To achieve the best outcomes, seamless and reliable mission critical communication between teams is paramount. Today, advancements in wireless connectivity are making this more effective and efficient than ever before. Next-generation resilient infrastructure, in tandem with digital innovations like IoT and drones, can enable seamless monitoring, communication and data-sharing before, during and after storms. It’s with these tools that first responders can better protect civilians and themselves.
Scroll to see for yourself how emergency personnel use technology to save lives during a storm.
In late August, a Category 4 hurricane threatens 7 million people on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
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Resilient network infrastructure
Verizon’s resilient networks protects mission-critical communications, even when power is lost. Verizon builds network structures in hurricane-prone areas to withstand Category 5 winds, and has the ability to maintain power for more than 7 days at 52 mobile switching centers equipped with battery and generator backups.
Heavy rain and wind-swept debris make it difficult and dangerous for first responders to assess damage from the field as it happens. Government agencies can use fixed cameras in strategic areas, such as key roadways, to wirelessly monitor flooding and potential hazards throughout the storm.
IoT smart sensors
Sensor technology—set up along the beach ahead of the storm—can monitor various meteorological changes in real-time. As the storm approaches, this allows government agencies to track and share critical data and give real-time updates to the public.
Enhanced wireless coverage
In the lead-up to the storm, the Verizon Response Team, in collaboration with government agencies, proactively stages deployable communications assets in the area. A “Cell on Wheels” (COW) and “Satellite Picocell on a Trailer” (SPOT) are two examples of deployables that will help enhance wireless coverage for first responders.
First responders and frontline workers using wearable technologies—such as smart watches—are more easily tracked, enabling the closest team to deploy in time-sensitive scenarios and facilitating coordination between agencies. This technology can also track the health of first responders, monitoring their safety.
When federal, state and local agencies are working together, real-time communication becomes even more important. With push-to-talk technology, multiple agencies and volunteers can communicate seamlessly across traditional radio networks and push-to-talk on cellular networks.
The network for public safety
The built-in network intelligence of Verizon Frontline technologies like priority access and preemption capabilities add an extra layer of assurance that public safety communications will continue to operate when most needed. The Verizon Response Team also provides boots-on-the-ground support during the storm, assisting first responders in whatever way possible, such as creating network connectivity for emergency operation centers or pop-up basecamps.
In an aftermath that may be unrecognizable due to hurricane damage, first responders can use wireless communications to overlay a virtual map on top of flooded areas, so rescue crews can get situational awareness of their surroundings. In the future, 5G-enabled augmented reality could also allow rescuers to see a virtual overlay of the architecture of a compromised building, enabling them to plan a safe and efficient rescue.
Remote-controlled vehicles and probes
Remote-controlled vehicles and probes can survey damage and stream video back to rescue teams, giving them an assessment before sending in humans. In the future, robots may be able to make repairs to pipes, stop gas leaks or even spot someone in need of rescue where it would otherwise be unsafe for a human to go.
Post-hurricane, fly-over drones perform damage assessments and allow a better view of where recovery resources are needed. Data streamed to remote operators allows agencies to share intel for a more informed, better coordinated effort.
Enhanced recovery support
Just after a hurricane makes landfall is the most critical time for first responders to help our communities. The Verizon Response Team can deploy temporary assets until the network is completely restored. Advanced communications solutions can be loaned to first responders to help support their missions. Emergency communications assets are rolled in to help citizens contact loved ones or to help local government restore citizen services.