Disaster Recovery Connectivity Changes Lives

By Kurt Garrison   August 4, 2015

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan crushed the Philippines. The worst storm on record; it killed more than 6,300 people and completely destroyed countless buildings and infrastructure. Coastal cities and towns were heavily damaged, and many villages were completely wiped out.

Humanitarian organizations from around the world were involved in the rescue efforts, including Disaster Tech Labs (DTL). DTL is made up of volunteer wireless professionals who volunteer their skills to provide emergency communications in disaster zones. Martin Keding, a technical training specialist with Cambium Networks, was one of the DTL team who contributed his time and talents to help the relief effort.

Martin describes the situation when the DTL team arrived. “A year later, people were still in the process of rebuilding. They had just recently moved out of the temporary relief tents and into some of the repaired buildings. Our task was to establish connectivity.”

One of the focus areas for DTL was a community called Camp Arapal, located in the northern hills of Cebu Island. Camp Arapal is unique in that it provides a wide variety of community services for the villages in the surrounding area. Programs include agriculture training, medical services, and the “Give a Goat” program. The camp and surrounding area were heavily damaged during the typhoon and had since become a hub for a number of relief organizations. In November 2014, DTL decided to replace the temporary emergency communications equipment with an expanded permanent wireless broadband solution.

Buildings in the camp were widely spread throughout a steep valley with cell phone and Internet access available only on a single hilltop above the camp. Working with community members and other relief organizations, DTL’s goal was to provide WiFi access and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to the majority of the camp.

The priority was to rapidly provide connectivity to connect families and improve communications for relief agencies. Martin Keding describes the installation process. “After a site survey and slight modifications to our initial design, we started installation. As there was still a lot of storm damage, in some cases we were required to use trees and posts as towers with the indoor equipment temporarily covered with tarps or placed in watertight enclosures. These would be relocated indoors as soon as structure repairs were completed.”

DTL deployed an ePMP™ integrated Access Point (AP) from Cambium Networks on the hilltop to provide coverage for the entire area. In the valley below, ePMP Subscriber Modules (SM) at each camp building provided broadband access and relayed the bandwidth to a Wireless Local Access Network (WLAN). At each building, Cambium C3VoIP network gateway devices provided WiFi connectivity and VoIP services. On the hilltop, a 3G/4G enabled router connected to the AP provided Internet service.

Almost immediately, people were able to have network, WiFi, and VoIP coverage throughout each camp building.

“During the trip, I was reminded each day of how necessary communications are in all parts of the world, not only for emergency needs, but for daily life,” says Keding.

Evert Bopp, founder and CEO of Disaster Tech Lab, shares his views in an interview with Enterprise Innovation.