world institute for disaster risk management current projects
about DRM
DRM network
work with DRM
news & events
current projects

Broadband Wireless Telecommunications for Disaster Management

A testbed for High-Speed "End-to-End" Communications in Support of Comprehensive Emergency Management (CEM)

A testbed for high-bandwidth "end-to-end" communications in support of comprehensive emergency management (CEM) planning and operations is being established. The team brings the support and endorsement of two (2) Federal agencies who are major participants in the comprehensive emergency management community. They are the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB). As the project progresses, the R&D objectives are expected to attract significant interest and involvement from state and local government agencies, and ultimately the 27 other federal agencies and the American Red Cross that comprise the Federal Response Plan (FRP). The R&D objectives have been specifically structured to address key underlying issues at the "intersection" of the academic R&D community with the real-world government emergency management environment.

The team is headed by the Center for Wireless Telecommunications at Virginia Tech and includes Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Global Broadband Solutions (GBS), and Old Dominion University. Team members are currently responsible for planning and developing FEMA's information and network technology architecture. It is noteworthy that the FEMA IT Architecture is closely aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the NSF Digital Government Program. Essential elements of the proposal include the following:

The testbed will be a platform for experimentation for advanced IT and networking technologies in support of comprehensive emergency management that simply does not exist today anywhere across the United States. The testbed will help set the standard for providing high-bandwidth networking and communication support to the emergency management community.

The testbed will be open to experimentation from other Digital Government awardees as well as members of the CEM community at local, state, tribal, and federal levels. To the maximum extent practicable, the testbed will be founded on open architecture principles, consistent with the FEMA IT Architecture.

The testbed will support "end-to-end" information exchange at DS-3 speeds with scalability up to higher speeds (e.g., OC-192 with WDM) as the funding and business case dictate.

Within the testbed, "end-to-end" communications capability will include developing and demonstrating a novel, flexible, and rapidly-deployable "last-mile" broadband wireless network based upon LMDS appropriate to first responders in the field and to FEMA Emergency Response Team (ERT) personnel. The deployable, broadband wireless technology that will be developed is expected to be of keen interest to the NGB, the Department of Justice, state/local police and fire authorities, and the FBI for various law enforcement scenarios and crises.

In an "end-to-end" sense, the testbed will also include provisions for establishment of the first ever Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for FEMA with state and local governments and with other federal agencies as part of the Federal Response Plan (FRP) and the disaster declamation process.

The high-bandwidth wireless and VPN capabilities that the Virginia Tech team proposes to develop do not exist today, yet are viewed as a critical future part of the FEMA IT Architecture. As the project progresses, the Virginia Tech team envisions supporting and demonstrating a bandwidth-intensive telepresence exercise where a first responder or FEMA ERT person, armed with a wireless LMDS- capable personal unit (that the team will develop) can literally send and retrieve emergency management information (including integrated voice, video, and data) to/from all levels of government including state, local, and federal (up to and potentially including the president).