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In the face of the global coronavirus crisis, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is helping countries manage disaster response activities. It has launched new guidelines for the development and implementation of National Emergency Telecommunication Plans.
These guidelines will assist national authorities and policymakers in developing policies and regulations that can ensure the continued use of telecommunication networks and services before, during, and after a disaster.
“The exceptional COVID-19 crisis we are going through right now shows how vital information and communication technology networks and services are, both to respond to the current pandemic and to address disaster management,” says ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
“Now more than ever, the implementation of comprehensive national emergency telecommunication plans can ensure there is effective and timely sharing of information across all levels of government, within affected communities and among humanitarian agencies to prioritize response efforts and to save lives.”
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A national emergency telecommunication plan sets out a strategy to enable and ensure communication availability during the phases of disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery by promoting coordination and engagement across all levels of government, humanitarian agencies, service providers, and communities at risk.
The guidelines also highlight major areas of risk during a disaster, provide justification for the funding of vital equipment and personnel in an emergency, and advocate the need for day-to-day resources and procedures that keep national authorities prepared, especially in relation to maintaining vital communications, the essential lifeline during emergencies.
ITU says it has already assisted several countries in developing their national emergency telecommunication plans, setting up of early warning and monitoring systems and the provision of emergency telecommunications equipment.
With emergency readiness in mind, ITU and the Global Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies, have joined forces to develop a Tabletop Emergency Simulation Guide which offers tools to test and refine the national emergency telecommunication plans using simulated scenarios.