The internet has become a fundamental part of our lives, transforming how we communicate and providing us with an array of entertainment options. The internet has become so normalized in our day-to-day functioning that many have taken it for granted. People must realize that the internet can become an invaluable tool to save human lives during emergencies.
Over 338 weather and climate-related disasters have occurred in the U.S. since 1980, which has accumulated over $2.2 trillion in damages. Although we can never anticipate when or where a crisis will happen, being prepared and having an effective way to communicate can help reduce the confusion and chaos that often comes with these unexpected events.
The internet is an essential tool for the government and other public & private entities to have a coordinated strategy that can be executed through clear communication channels and manage a timely response to these disasters.
Communications are often lost during a crisis when critical infrastructure is destroyed. Internet connection may be harder to establish if cell phone towers, wires, and antennas are caught in the destruction. Thankfully, satellite internet has become a reliable alternative to ground-based connections. It is less prone to disruptions, making it an invaluable resource during emergencies.
This article will examine how vital internet communication can be during a crisis or emergency. We'll also explore how satellite internet works during natural disasters and if it could be a possible lifeline during an emergency.
Staying safe starts with being informed - keep reading to learn more!
How to Prepare Your Internet Devices For Crisis
All too often, we focus on emergency preparedness only after a crisis has occurred. But as the saying goes, "chance favors the prepared mind." If you are prepared for a disaster, you have a better chance of dealing with it effectively.
While we can't do away with disasters, we can improve our preparedness and response by having our internet-ready devices ready for crises. Not only will these help us communicate with our friends and family, but they can also help us stay up to date on dangers in the area, alert authorities at an early stage, and even assist in rescuing those affected.
Follow the simple steps below to get your devices ready for a crisis.
Protect Your Equipment
Just as you would take measures to protect your home in a natural disaster, it's also essential to safeguard your internet-connected devices. Keep your devices protected by storing them safely and by using water-resistant cases. Additionally, unplug your devices when not in use or use a surge protector to guard against power surges.
Charge Your Devices
Your smartphone is one of your most valuable tools in an emergency. It can contain all of your emergency contacts and allow you to keep track of your loved ones. However, this will only be possible if the battery is charged.
Keep your device's power running smoothly by charging your device beforehand. During the calamity, try to save or preserve power. Dim your screen brightness. You can also deactivate features you don't need, like Bluetooth services, and close any apps you're not using.
Have a Portable Backup Power
A portable backup power system can be beneficial, as it will keep your electronic devices charged during a power outage. These systems come in different types that work by using solar power, car batteries, or rechargeable batteries. By having more than one type of these portable backup power, your devices will have enough ability to stay connected for days.
Invest in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
An uninterruptible power supply or UPS is an electrical device that immediately provides backup power to a load when the input power source fails. If there's a power outage, the UPS switches to its internal battery so that any services plugged into it don't experience any downtime.
Depending on your needs, you can get a general UPS or one designed to support a particular device. The more specific the UPS is, the longer its internal battery will last.
Importance of the Internet During Emergencies and Disasters
The potential uses for the internet are virtually endless, but it becomes increasingly apparent how helpful it can be during crises. During previous disasters, such as the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan and the 1998 ice storms in the United States and Canada, the internet was used to set up a web page that delivered updates and essential information when many telephone lines were cut and became overloaded.
In this digital age, it's only natural to turn to technology during a crisis. We tweet, search for the news, and scroll on Facebook, as we want real-time updates on what is going on from our online communities. As Google's Crisis Response project states: "When disaster strikes, people turn to the internet for information."
The following section will further explore how different sectors utilize the internet during emergencies and disasters.
For National and Local Authorities
The internet gives national and local authorities real-time information during a crisis, which is essential for their response. One way they do it is by using an online geographic information system (GIS). A GIS is a computer system where you can see many kinds of data on one map, such as streets or buildings.
This online mapping software allows officials to share information and overlay data from various sources enabling responders to reduce initial response time. Furthermore, it analyzes which telecom assets are in critical danger, so officials can shut off and reroute communications quickly and efficiently.
Social media also plays a role in assisting officials during a disaster. They use social media to alert people of where help is located and when they plan on reaching the affected areas. Uploaded photos and videos of the damage can assist emergency personnel with identifying survivors as well as gaining an understanding of how severe the situation is.
For Humanitarian Organizations
Effective communication is critical for successful relief efforts. Some types of assistance, particularly health-related humanitarian aid, should be done in partnership with local and national government agencies.
During a crisis, the internet can be a channel for fast collaboration between local and national authorities, donors, NGOs, and others. Pledges and contributions can be collected more quickly, leading to faster, more efficient distribution and response.
For Affected Populations
For people affected by disasters, the internet provides them with current news, such as road closures and evacuation routes, designated help areas, and more. They can also share information about their location and well-being with family and friends on social media.
Following a disaster, people can use the internet to help others find their loved ones, pets, and belongings. It also tells the public about donation drives and relief funds, as many will likely need clothing, food, and shelter.
Furthermore, businesses can use their company's social media pages and web presence to inform their clients and stakeholders about their current situation and their plans to rebuild, relocate, or reopen.
When an unforeseen event happens, the internet is a saving grace that allows us to stay connected and updated. So, it is important that after an emergency or disaster has passed, you check your internet devices and contact your service provider if you notice any damage or connection problems. Refrain from fixing supplier-installed equipment, such as satellite dishes, as this might result in more destruction.
Why Satellite Internet is the Best Choice During Emergencies and Disasters
Satellite internet is an incredibly reliable resource during emergency and disaster situations. Most forms of internet require cables or towers that could get damaged easily by storms or other disaster-related incidents.
For satellite internet, all that's needed is a satellite terminal on the ground, which can take minutes to set up. Additionally, satellites can run on solar panels and battery packs, making the technology ideal for use during power outages.
When Hurricane Maria caused cellular networks in Puerto Rico to fail, satellite internet became the primary means of providing connectivity to critical sites like pharmacies and hospitals. This allowed those hospitals to coordinate refills of medicine and supplies, respond to emergency requests, and communicate with rescue personnel.
Satellites offer much more than internet connectivity during natural disasters and other calamities. Using satellite imaging systems, officials can accurately pinpoint flooding areas and plan their rescue and evacuation operations accordingly. This invaluable resource allows them to identify high-risk locations and take necessary actions without delay.
Satellites also have the capability to monitor wildfires by tracking their progress and measuring temperatures. This allows firefighters to better understand how quickly a fire might spread, giving them more time to respond accordingly.
Overall, satellite technology is an incredible asset that can be used in preparation for, during, and following any disaster. As technology advances, we can anticipate satellite internet evolving into an increasingly more powerful tool to protect lives and property during times of crisis.
Best Satellite Internet Service Providers in the U.S.
With the newfound understanding of how beneficial satellite internet can be, it's time to look at the best available satellite internet provider options.
There used to be more than five companies that supplied this service. However, many have discontinued their services or been bought out by other corporations, leaving Viasat, HughesNet, and Starlink as the only go-to choices.
Most Flexible Bundle Plans and Fastest Speeds: Viasat
Viasat is one of the major satellite internet providers in the U.S. that offers high-speed internet and large data caps, but it comes at a cost. If you require or prefer fast internet speeds, and don't mind paying a bit extra, then Viasat is an excellent option.
Viasat offers two types of internet plans: Liberty and Unlimited. The Liberty plans provide speeds of 12 Mbps, with data caps ranging from 12-50 GB. Prices for the Liberty plan start at $30/month for 12 GB of data and go up to $75/month for 50 GB.
On the other hand, Viasat's Unlimited plans come with a speed of up to 100 Mbps. While these plans are labeled "unlimited," you still need to be mindful of your data usage. If you exceed the monthly data limit, your connection will get throttled. These unlimited plans start at $69.99 per month and go up to $199.99 for their fastest plan.
If you decide to go with Viasat, remember that it requires a two-year contract. And if you cancel your service within the first month of installation, they will charge you $360 in termination fees. Also, even though your monthly fee is locked in for two years, Viasat will raise the price after three months.
Even though Viasat is expensive, its plans are very flexible, allowing you to choose one that best fits your needs and budget. Overall, they can still be an excellent choice, particularly if you live in a rural area and have multiple people using internet service in your home.
Most Affordable: HughesNet
If you want the most affordable provider that offers decent speed, then Hughesnet is a great pick. HughesNet's prices are reasonable, starting at $54.99/mo for a 25Mbps speed with a 15 GB data cap. And those prices will not change for your 2-year contract.
Hughesnet doesn't have unlimited data plans, but you always have the option to buy more data. You can purchase data tokens of 3-25 GB that don't expire, so you can use them as needed.
Although it's cheaper, HughesNet has a slower speed and data limit than its rivals. The company maxes out at 25 Mbps download speeds for all its plans. If your household uses a lot of internet data and is constantly buying more data tokens, switching providers to one with an unlimited plan makes more sense.
However, HughesNet plans are perfect for you if your household only uses the internet for basic tasks like surfing the web, checking emails, or paying bills online.
Most Promising: Starlink
Starlink seems like the answer to the demand for fast satellite internet speed. Its download speed of 200 Mbps for standard service is twice its competitor's amount, and business plans max out at an impressive 500 Mbps speed.
Not only does Starlink have incredibly fast connection speeds, but it also doesn't restrict the amount of data you can use. You can download as many HD videos as possible without worrying that your connection might slow down.
While Starlink boasts incredible speed and unlimited data, expect that the cost is pretty high. In addition to your monthly service fee of $110, you'll have to pay at least $600 for the satellite dish plus shipping and handling charges.
It's also worth noting that Starlink is relatively new, so it only has limited availability. Moreover, customer service seems inadequate since you can only reach out to them if you pre-order their services.
It's difficult to say whether Starlink is good since it's still in beta. Still, even at this early stage, the new satellite internet provider is a more promising option that can cater to heavy internet users.
The Bottom Line
The internet is no longer a luxury in today's world – it has become an absolute necessity. In moments of crisis or unexpected events, it can be the lifeline we need to keep ourselves informed, stay connected with family and friends, and aid in relief efforts.
How important is online information during an emergency?
Having access to the right information during an emergency is essential. Online resources provide up-to-date news and advice on how to stay safe, where to find help, and what steps to take in a crisis. From weather warnings to health advisories, having access to the correct information can make all the difference in a difficult situation.
What is the role of the media in response to disaster management?
The media serves as an essential public information source and can provide life-saving warnings and advice during emergencies.
Media outlets also help spread awareness about safety procedures and aid organizations, giving people a platform to share their stories and raise funds.
How important is technology in disaster risk reduction?
Technology plays a critical role in disaster risk reduction. It can help identify potential risks, monitor and predict natural disasters, and even reduce the impact of disasters.
For instance, satellite imaging technology is used to detect floods in high-risk areas. Similarly, some mobile applications like Early Warning Systems can provide real-time alerts about natural disasters and help people take necessary precautions.
What is the advantage of using social media during emergency communication?
When used during an emergency, the widespread usage of social media can help you get your message out to more people and share information with their networks. People can also use the platform to communicate with each other and provide updates on their situations.
Additionally, it can be used as a tool for residents to respond, ask questions, and provide updates to their local authorities. Through social media, emergency response managers learn about events happening in real-time.
How can the Internet of Things prepare cities for natural disasters?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a powerful tool for monitoring and preparing cities for natural disasters. IoT-enabled sensors can be installed in critical areas, such as flood plains and coastal regions, to detect seismic activity, monitor water levels, and track weather patterns and temperatures.
This allows emergency leaders to prepare for potential disasters early and give adequate warnings to people who are in the path of danger.