Whether it’s a snowstorm – like this week’s historic “bomb cyclone” – a hurricane, an earthquake, flood or fire, satellite is often the best way for first responders and other emergency teams to keep lines of communication open. In many disaster situations, overhead lines and underground cables are damaged or destroyed, knocking out terrestrial phone and internet services. However, satellite is there with its unique ability to provide ‘always-available’ phone and internet services without the need of wired or land-based wireless connections. All you need is our equipment and a power source (often a generator).
Viasat has a long history of helping out in disaster situations, providing crucial communications when other services are down. Here’s a look at how satellite communications can be used in disaster situations:
- The Red Cross. Viasat is an official vendor of satellite communications equipment for Red Cross Disaster Services. The organization has several of our portable satellite systems, which can be set up anywhere in the field to connect to the internet. Viasat terminals have been used to assist with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in the southern continental U.S., with mudslides in the Northwest, and in many other natural disaster situations. With last year’s Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma disasters, we provided temporary satellite communications services to give volunteers and first responders high-speed, high-quality broadband internet and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) communications at distribution centers and at locations beyond the reach of traditional communications networks.
- Emergency connections. Viasat helps provide emergency communications services in other areas. For instance, we provided pro-bono satellite services to several U.S. Navy bases after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. While these bases were evacuated and regular communications services were down for days —and in some cases weeks (for Key West) — Viasat sent a team to set up a few satellite-enabled hotspots to support emergency crews on base.
Viasat also supports the Satellite CARES (Community Aid Relief Effort) program, a partnership between the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association Foundation and Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC). This project is aimed at assisting communities hit by large-scale natural disasters like flooding, wildfires, hurricanes or tornadoes.
- Emergency phone service. Satellite internet can be used to connect VoIP phones, which can be of critical importance in disaster areas where both terrestrial phone lines and internet services are down. In 2013 during catastrophic floods in Colorado, Viasat employees from our Denver office set up two emergency terminals in Jamestown, CO. There, local residents lined up to make phone calls over satellite, letting loved ones know they were OK. They were the only working phones in the area for days.
- Help in times of need. When disaster strikes, the last thing we want is our residential or business customers to be worried about their internet equipment or bill. Once an emergency situation has settled down, we’ll work with our customers on an individual basis to determine the best course of action. That might mean fixing or replacing equipment; helping file an insurance claim for lost equipment; or help with billing and equipment leasing issues, to name a few. We hope our customers never need this kind of aid, but if they do, we encourage them to call us at 855-313-4111 and we’ll be there to assist them.
- We donate. Viasat has more than 4,500 employees worldwide, and they are known to step up when disaster strikes. Plus, Viasat matches donations that our employees make. With Hurricane Harvey, Viasat employees donated around $20,000 which the Company matched. Several of our locations hosted fundraisers, and Viasat matched those amounts as well.
At Viasat, we believe in helping out wherever we can, whether that’s ensuring our customers can stay connected during times of need, or through our employee and corporate giving initiatives.