Satellite communications facilitates connectivity in remote communities.
Effective disaster response requires expertise across a wide range of sectors. How various sectors interact and exchange information can be critical to a positive outcome. Often, each sector having operated within its own domain, has limited visibility into other sectors until reporting out to senior leadership. This often results in excellent work within a narrow “silo” of that domain, but leaves room for improvement in the overall picture, helping the communities impacted by a disaster.
FEMA has recently incorporated “community lifelines” into their National Response Framework. These community lifelines seek to improve the efficacy of work done within the sectors by ensuring a purposeful connection to the benefit of the impacted communities.
Figure 1: FEMA’s Community Lifelines
FEMA’s seven community lifelines also makes it easier to exchange information across domains. The response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico demonstrates the importance of effective collaboration and quick information exchange across domains.
In the early response efforts, government and non-profit organizations worked to support the distribution of food and water into communities impacted by the storm. It might seem simple to determine whether a community has access to food and water, but the reality is more complicated.
Following the hurricane, local infrastructure was left devastated. ATMs were out of commission and point of sale (POS) terminals in stores could not process credit cards or food stamp (EBT) card transactions. Even though many community grocery stores were stocked with food and water and generators to keep perishables refrigerated, members of their community were unable to purchase supplies. As a result, these people were supported by government and non-profit aid distributions.
Figure 2: Photo by Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor; (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/3825485/fema-dod-coordinate-food-water-distribution-juana-diaz-puerto-rico)
Small business owners stood watching from their stores as their customers visited distribution centers to collect the very supplies that filled their shelves. We met with the owner of a grocery store on Culebra. He had to watch as his customers lined up at city hall to collect aid from government and non-profit organizations.