26 October 2017: Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) supplied a communications lifeline to over 1,000 residents of Dominica and enabled essential relief coordination following Hurricane Maria.
A mission report details the response of the Inmarsat-sponsored emergency telecoms agency when the Category 5 hurricane hit the Caribbean last month just two weeks after Hurricane Irma caused devastation across islands in the region.
With Dominica’s telecommunications infrastructure badly damaged, the TSF team utilised Global Xpress (GX) to set up a high-speed internet network at the international relief effort operational base – the Windsor Park Stadium in the capital, Roseau.
The French fire brigade from Martinique and French Guyana; civil protection and emergency services; the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the European Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO); and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) all benefited from TSF’s connection, with a total of 86 GB of data transferred for logistics management and information sharing.
Following a government request for help, TSF supplied IsatPhone 2 satellite phones to five towns so that community leaders could report their medical and security needs. A total of 910 calls were also made by residents who, with no way to power or top-up their mobile phones, were left unable to contact loved ones.
Faced with the scale of the disaster in Dominica, TSF piloted a new service which allowed people in remote locations to benefit from high-speed Wi-Fi. A vehicle equipped with a GX terminal and self-generated power source was driven from village to village to provide inhabitants with access to social media, messaging apps and news sites. For many, this was the first opportunity to contact their relatives abroad and inform them of their situation. The team also offered a portable charging service for their mobile phones.
On the first day of operations, 272 devices were connected to the GX-powered Wi-Fi network.
As the island begins the enormous task of reconstruction, TSF is working with local humanitarian agencies to explore the possibilities of implementing a national capacity building programme, with satellite communications at the heart of a stronger and more efficient telecoms response.