By Peter J. Brown
Exactly when and where the hot zone--the impacted area surrounding the precise spot where a weapon of mass destruction device is unleashed--will suddenly appear is anyone's guess. What is certain is that first responders--fire, police and emergency medical personnel will be quickly activating their mass casualty incident management systems. In the process, satellite technology will be playing a vital role from the start.
Programs such as the Metropolitan Medical Response System, the multi-state Emergency Management Assistance Compact and the Disaster Management Interoperability Service (DMIS) are intended to ensure that resources flow to the scene and that the ranks of emergency response personnel on site are quickly reinforced. All of these programs are ready to roll with satellite technology.
In the event of a terrorist attack on the United States, emergency response and disaster management traffic will begin to flow. It may start with a noticeable uptick in satellite phone traffic, followed by a series of broadcasts over the Global Broadcast System (GBS) from the U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., via UHF Follow-On satellites. The Defense Satellite Communications System, Milstar and other Department of Defense and commercial satellite assets will be tapped by the Standing Joint Task Force Headquarters-North, responsible for overseeing the response by Northern Command, as it begins issuing commands to units across the country.
National Guard Civil Support Teams, created to assist local emergency commanders in the event of an attack using weapons of mass destruction, will deploy their satellite- equipped communications trucks known as Unified Command Suites and satellite-equipped sports utility vehicles known as Advanced Liaison Vehicles.
Satellite-equipped communications vans known as Infralynx, developed by the U.S. Naval Research Lab and pre-positioned in major cities across the United States will begin to roll. Equipped with the Ku-band Interim Satellite Incident Support Communications System, they will support the operations of a highly trained team known as the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package with X-band satellite to provide secure command and control voice and voiceconferencing capabilities all the way up to the White House. Ku-band, VSAT-equipped Mobile Air Transportable Telecommunications Systems and Mobile Emergency Response Systems may also be dispatched to the disaster scene by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In other words, in the event of a major terror attack on the United States, satellites will play a major role in the response, helping to glue the vast multi-agency operation together while helping to sustain continuity of operations on the ground at the local, state and federal level.