Recent disasters have revealed the extreme vulnerability of fixed landlines and cellular phone networks, leaving first responders in affected areas unable to communicate with each other or with the outside world.

Magen David Adom in Israel and The New Zealand Red Cross, both members of the International Red Cross, have purchased Iridium satellite communications equipment for use in relief efforts.
Iridium is suited to backing up land-based, cellular and radio telecom services when they are down in crisis situations. In addition, unlike many other systems, Iridium is interoperable with all other emergency communications systems, including UHF and VHF radios. Local Iridium service provider Satcomms spokesman Anthony Glass says satellite phones are a must for emergency and relief agencies.
“Instant communications play a vital role in our disaster relief efforts,” says Dr Noam Yifrah, chairman of Magen David Adom. “Having reliable back-up communications that will work when we need it both at home and in remote locations is critical to our success.”
The New Zealand Red Cross also purchased Iridium 9505A handsets and is distributing the majority of them to various Red Cross National Societies in the Pacific including Fiji, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.
The phones were made operational within minutes of arriving in the Solomon Islands for use during the recent tsunami, for example, when land-based communications were unavailable.
“In the event of a disaster, Red Cross aid workers of Pacific Red Cross National Societies will be able use the phones to communicate with each other, or to the outside world, anywhere in the world,” said Andrew McKie, operations manager, New Zealand Red Cross.
“The Iridium satellite phones are simple to use and do not rely on fixed structures, such as masts and aerials. The recent tsunami demonstrated the importance of independence from fixed structures. It is essential to have this extra communications back-up.”