Disaster Communications Management

Course Description

The course is designed to address telecommunications needs for mitigating the effects of natural and manmade disasters in which normal communications are often disrupted by physical damage, system overload or adverse weather conditions.

Site selection, planning and design considerations for Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) will be reviewed. Field trips will be made to different types of EOCs in actual operation. Information flow requirements within EOCs and between EOCs and government and non government officials, public safety operations, public and government media and emergency medical services will be studied. Participants will visit and be briefed at a 911 emergency response center, an urban Search and Rescue Training Academy, a S&R first responder and FEMA equipment deployment facility. Students will also see, understand and appreciate for the first time, preparations, logistics and communications and other equipment and training that go into a US disaster recovery effort. The role that communications plays in this effort will be evident. PAHO’s EOC and computerized supply management system for disaster mitigation and other similar facilities will also be reviewed. Special focus will be on methods of tracking, exchanging and using critical information prior to, during and after an emergency. The course will cover vulnerability assessment, resiliency and telecommunications infrastructure development requirements for disaster prone regions.

Participants will be introduced, through field trips and classrooms, to a wide range of technologies including Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), mobile and fixed satellite communications, remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), drones, public safety interoperability, amateur radio and the Internet including social networks. Participants will be given the tools to help them evaluate which technologies will be applicable to their countries for a wide range of applications including: refugee management, anti-terrorism, natural and man-made disaster recovery and relief operations, early detection and warning, public safety, public information and emergency medical including telemedicine. The application of these technologies for economic development, rural communications, transportation and public health will be highlighted and some applicable regulatory considerations will be discussed briefly. Emphasis will be placed on understanding and using the power of the internet, including social networks and smart phones, for disaster mitigation operations and for detailed information retrieval. The benefits and characteristics of an internationally recognized Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) will be discussed. At the end of the course each student will be expected to structure and present a simple example of an Emergency Response Center designed to address an emergency situation, real or imaginary, in their country. The students should use some of the applicable technology, concepts and practices learned in the course in their design. The purpose of this presentation is to help the students develop the skills necessary to convey information learned in this course to their peers.

Learning Objective

Participant learning objectives include the ability to make choices concerning the application of disaster related communications technologies. Students should develop an understanding of information flow and how to integrate available and new communications technologies and services into a disaster communications network.


Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)


Washington, DC


October 28-November 1, 2019