Sunday, March 18, 2012

Disaster Communications and Humanitarian Logistics

Last week, the students in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare course at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst had a guest lecture on Disaster Communications.

I had told the students, before I left for Gothenburg, Sweden, that there would be a surprise guest lecturer on March 13, who would be speaking to them on Disaster Communications.

The surprise guest speaker was my husband, Professor Lad Nagurney, who is an expert on computer engineering and communications, among other topics related to hardware. He has also been a ham radio operator for many years.

Throughout the semester, the theme of communications, and the importance of communications in emergency preparedness and response has been resonating.

To-date, the class has heard from such experts as: Mr. Tom O'Regan, emergency preparedness and business continuity manager at UMass Amherst, Mr. Rick Lee of the Red Cross, and Lt. Col. James Sahady of the National Guard.

The presentation on Disaster Communications has now been posted. It discusses trade-offs among different modes of communications and their resilience (or lack thereof) in disasters, along with the Tampere Convention, which the US as well as Russia have yet to ratify.

During the Bellagio Center workshop, Humanitarian Logistics: Networks for Africa, that I organized, under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation, the participants had the privilege of hearing Dr. Cosmas Zavazava of the International Telecommunications Union speak on Bridging the Last mile gap through Telecommunications/ICT in Disaster Management. My husband had actually suggested Dr. Zavazava, since he was well-aware of his leadership in this area, and his presentation was outstanding. This workshop, which took place in May 2008 at Lake Como, Italy, was sandwiched between the cyclone that hit Myanmar/Burma and the Sichuan earthquake in China (obviously I had not planned the workshop this way).

Resilient communications assist in a more timely response and enable the flow of critical needs supplies to the victims at points of demand. They are also extremely important in recovery operations and in reestablishing connections among family members and in getting the news out.

Without communications, disaster relief operates in a complete vacuum.