Problem Statement

When disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes strike, telecommunication infrastructure are among the first pieces of critical infrastructure to be destroyed or severely impaired due to damage or high volume of traffic. It is very critical for those affected by a disaster to be able to contact loved ones, ask for help, receive alerts and for first responders to coordinate relief and rescue efforts. As the result, a reliable communication system that can operate during disasters is a necessity.

Solution Statement

The system is designed to be deployed rapidly in the after math of a disaster with the assumption that the existing telecommunication infrastructure is destroyed or severely impaired due to damage or just due to the volume of traffic.There are facilities for low data rate and high data connection to people outside of the disaster region. In addition to providing regional communications the system is designed to provide information to citizen from local emergency services.


The system is designed to provide regional communications to citizens affected by a disaster in the after math of a disaster. As outside help may be hours, days or even week away, the focus is on providing communication to individuals in the region so that they can contact loved ones and people can coordinate their relief and rescue efforts as first responders may be overwhelmed. The system will also provide prioritized text messaging and voice communications for first responders to supplement their existing systems. In addition to providing regional communications the system is design to provide information to citizen in the form of informational bulletins from local emergency service organizations. The services and the priority of those service were taken from documents written by the FCC and FEMA covering communication in disaster siutations.

Technical Feasibility

This is a mesh network telecommunications system designed to be deployed in the immediate after math of a disaster. It is based on a telecommunication system designed to be deployed in un-served communities in developing countries (CEMN - The original system focused on minimizing cost, being able to be manufactured locally and being able to be assembled and maintained with people without advanced technical skills. The focus of this system is ease of deployment, large geographic coverage area, robustness of design, high user capacity, being able to be powered in a region with unreliable power and scalability. The project draws heavily from open source initiatives in order to ensure the design can be easily build and easily improved upon. Core elements like the message service, registration server, access points and bridges in the nodes of the mesh have been test in the original CEMN design. The new elements of the design such as the scheduler, load balancer and servers were implemented to handle the higher demand and load on the system anticipated in an intermediate to large urban environment. They are all drawn from existing open source designs. The Software Defined Radios that make this design unique in terms of the configurability of the system to improve geographic coverage and system through put are also based on a proven open source hardware design. The different protocol stacks necessary to implement the specific wireless protocols have not yet be implemented as open source designs yet but the open source hardware was specifically build with these protocols in mind. The LimeSDR software defined radios were designed to create an open source reference design in order to make specific wireless network protocol stacks become “software as a service” and the designer will be contributing to that code based during this project. Well established protocols such as WiFi (802.11 ac and 802.11n), LTE and Ham radio data transfer through 2 FSK created through open source initiative like FaraDayRF are potential stacks that can be implemented. Sufficiently time to implement the stacks will be the major challenge during the course of this project. The designers hope to use the HackADay community to get other designers to join the initiative. The ability to prioritize communications in the system can be achieved through service already available in the message server (XMPP). Only an appropriate front end needs to implemented. The mesh architecture that connects the node together is based on the open source BATMAN (Better Approach to Mobile Adhoc Networking) initiative. This design is intended to minimize the technical risk by drawing on many open source initiative. There are still technical risk in the integration process and in some case the component pieces still need to be customized in order to them to work together with the other pieces and deliver the performance set out in the technical specification.  The performance of some of the hardware components like the inflatable antenna towers have not been tested in extreme conditions by the designer. They are relying on the technical specification provided by the manufacturers. Like all new designs it is difficult to know the performance of the design without an actual deployment and the conditions under which this design must work are at the extremes. The designers have tried to minimize the risk by choosing components that have been deployed in similar applications.

Social Impact

In a disaster situation being able to contact loved ones to make sure they are alright and being able to contact first responders and emergency service organizations for help are critical activities for the citizens for a region. Confirming the safety of loved ones and that help is on the way can bring piece of mind to people already in stressful, life changing situations. The user specifications of the design were drawn from documents written by FEMA and FCC on communications in disaster situation. The priorities put forth in those documents are reflected in the design. The design also draws on the designers experience in user centered design to create an easy to use user interface (UI)  that can be access as an App or and online webpage service. The UI of the services are design to be regionalized to accommodate the mix of language in various parts of the country and to maximize engagement. Ultimately up take and utilization of the system is going to depend on how well the communities socialize the existence of the services. Extensive social media campaigns are necessary to drive engagement before the disaster event as impossible to maintain access to social when the existing infrastructure is impaired.


The system is based on a mesh networking architecture. The system can function as a single node (a server node) or additional nodes can be added that essentially can be expanded up to the capacity of the maximum allocated memory of the routing for the system. New nodes can be added and the system will register those nodes automatically. The system is also designed to be self healing in the system can route around damaged nodes or nodes that are temporarily unavailable. The system is also designed to be shelf powering once they are deployed using solar panels and batteries. The software defined radio systems used to connect the nodes provide for the system to use densely populated access nodes (typically WiFi) or distantly space access node (HAM Radio bands or LTE) depending on the population density or geographic obstacles in a region.  All the designs for this system are intended to be open source and currently leverage many open source components.


The system is used software defined radio technology at the core of the design of the telecommunication infrastructure in order to allow the system to implement different connection protocols that scale to meet the needs of the organization deploying the system and to meet the geographic and physical infrastructure needs of the deployment. It is recognized that WiFi is appropriate for short distance connections with high densities in areas where line of sight between antennas of the nodes is more direct. WiFi has the additional advantage of not requiring specific licenses. It can be deployed quickly without having to be assigned specific bands by the Federal Communication Commission. Ham radio frequencies can range from long wave up to intermediate frequencies that can carry signal intermediate to ultra long distances depending on the carrier frequencies used. Ham radio frequency have limited bandwidth though. Licensed telecommunication bands such as being used for LTE (long term evolution) have the advantage of having high bandwidth for data and high power and sensitive for long range communication. LTE can achieve spacing of up to 45 miles with unobstructed line of sight.

Applications Supported

The following applications, services and information will be provided through the nextwork:

To minimize the load on the network to a minimum the primary method of communications will be through text messaging

-   First responders and emergency service organizations will have priority text message accounts  giving their communications  priority over the messages of other user.

-  There are will a limit number of voice channels available to first responders and emergency service organization. The voice traffic will be prioritized to give it priority over normal message traffic.

-  People will be able to download the messaging App from the cache memory in each node or they can access the messaging feature through a webpage hosted on the local node which will perform the same function as the AppFirst

Responders and emergency service organization can broadcast alerts or information to each registered user in the registration database

User can also download an App that provides a compass and longitude and latitude navigation capabilities which is important I the absence of physical street signs

First aid and survival manuals can be downloaded form the cache