FEMA Selects HF Backup Disaster Communications Network
Tuesday, June 09, 2020 | Comments

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a mission-critical backup communications network with its recent selection of Collins Aerospace Systems’ UrgentLink HF disaster communications system. UrgentLink is the first nationwide public-safety network, designed for high availability and ease of use in disasters, the company said.

Collins Aerospace is a unit of Raytheon Technologies. The solution enables first responders and other critical public health, safety and industry officials to communicate with each other when traditional communications networks are damaged or destroyed.

“UrgentLink will provide a redundancy capability to our existing communications infrastructure to help us ensure the protection of life and property in the event of a major disaster,” said Damon Penn, assistant administrator, response directorate, FEMA.

The UrgentLink subscription-based service is fully managed and maintained by Collins Aerospace and calls for the deployment of radios in FEMA’s six regional Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) locations and 100 cached radios for use during disasters. Operating on an HF spectrum specifically authorized by the FCC for disaster use, UrgentLink uses ground stations throughout the U.S. to create redundant coverage when landlines and cellular, satellite and microwave networks and other systems have been disabled or destroyed by hurricanes, wildfires, terrorist acts or other catastrophic events.

The UrgentLink network will be available to FEMA as soon as the radios are deployed, expected to be by June in preparation for the 2020 hurricane season. FEMA will join other UrgentLink customers, such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the second-largest public-safety agency in the country.

The system was introduced in 2015.

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