By LT E. Kenny, 3 CSRUrgent need of five satellite phones for the President, Prime Minster, Minister for the Interior, the Chief of Police and the Haitian Ambassador to the UN.
1. The involvement of military forces in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations is not a new concept. The engagement of the military in relief activities has grown over the last 20 years. US military forces were used to respond to the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh and to Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998. More recently, the US military supported the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The UK military was used to help tackle floods in Britain in 2007 and Chinese troops were deployed in the aftermath of the earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008.
2. When cataloguing the number and types of operations the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has conducted since 2005, the most common type of contribution is HADR . From OP FIJI ASSIST in February of this year, to OP SUMATRA ASSIST in 2005, the ADF has carried out more than a dozen HADR operations at home and abroad. These operations generally follow natural or man-made disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis or bush fires. The coordination of numerous contributors, military and civilian, is a vital element to any HADR response in what is typically a complex and chaotic environment.
3. The recent operation in Fiji has shown the capability of the ADF to mobilise:
Given the nature of this theatre, the combination of typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and other natural phenomena provides a constant potential for deploying forces to reduce loss of life and immediate suffering in the wake of such events. History demonstrates that amphibious forces have utility across a wide range of mission areas and circumstances, especially in a region where the seas are connective tissue among prosperous maritime partners and developing nations.
4. The aim of this essay is to discuss the challenges of communications in a HADR environment and assess the need for further investigation into an unclassified mobile PABX solution for use in a joint HADR operation.
5. This essay will focus on several key discussion points. It will address the challenges of operating in a HADR environment and assess what the key requirements of a communications system are likely to be. It will propose a solution to answer those challenges, and lastly it will discuss the benefits of a communications system in a HADR environment, as well as additional benefits to Army from a purely tactical context.
CHALLENGES OF A HADR ENVIRONMENT
6. Once the decision to support a HADR operation has been made, planning for reliable communications after a disaster is a difficult yet crucial requirement for coordinating relief efforts. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are key elements of any response to crisis. ICTs enable the coordination of civilian and military organisations to assist local populations and host governments. Operating within the HADR environment comes with its own unique set of challenges.
7. Collaboration and Coordination. The 2016 Defence White Paper stated an increased emphasis on Australia's participation in HADR operations in the Indo Pacific region . In a HADR environment, any military operation has the added complexity of civilian cooperation and collaboration. In some cases, mistrust between responding civilian agencies, and the lack of experience those organisations have in working with the military in a chaotic and time pressed environment can impact the overall relief effort. The presence of foreign militaries responding to the disaster also gives rise to a problem with the provision of a military voice or data network for anything other than ADF use.
8. Whether an operation is military led as in the Haiti earthquake, or civilian led during the post-Hurricane Katrina clean-up, collaboration between all agencies becomes difficult. The lack of coordination of various elements is one of the key identified problems resulting in unnecessary replication of effort, wastage of resources and tension between involved parties. This was demonstrated during the Haiti earthquake where 'Over 900 NGOs responded they compete with one another for resources, duplicate one another's efforts, and generally get in one another's way'. Gathering and disseminating the necessary information can be a complex task, especially when many different agencies are involved in the relief effort.
9. The simple ability to move can be disrupted by damaged roads, fleeing civilians or proximity to the actual disaster areas. During the Kalapana Volcano eruption in Hawaii in 1990 , lava wiped out roads and cut off access to remote villages. Power infrastructure may be damaged or greatly reduced, and may present an additional danger from downed power lines and exposed wires. Where there is power it may be unreliable, with intermittent dark periods, brown-outs and spikes as seen in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji earlier this year . As a result of compromised infrastructure, network saturation, and intermittent support services such as the power infrastructure , internal landline and cellular communications can quickly become overburdened, limiting ability to communicate.
10. Whether an operation is military led as in the Haiti earthquake, or civilian led during the post-Hurricane Katrina clean-up, collaboration between all agencies becomes difficult. The lack of coordination of various elements is one of the key identified problems resulting in unnecessary replication of effort, wastage of resources and tension between involved parties. This was demonstrated during the Haiti earthquake where 'Over 900 NGOs responded they compete with one another for resources, duplicate one another's efforts, and generally get in one another's way'. Gathering and disseminating the necessary information can be a complex task, especially when many different agencies are involved in the relief effort.