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Offering a lifeline when disaster strikes

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Mobile phones are becoming more and more valuable in our lives – giving us internet access, allowing us to shop, manage our money, access the weather forecast and post on our favourite social media sites.  Most people now view their phones as an essential tool for day-to-day life.


However, they can also be a lifeline in times of emergency. Mobile communications can facilitate early warnings and allow people to reach loved-ones. They can also be invaluable for requesting help or co-ordinating relief, which puts operators in a unique position to support communities and aid response when disaster strikes.


First and foremost, ensuring network operability and availability is paramount. According to the GSMA, the first 72 hours following a disaster are the most critical. This is the period where emergency services are most able to save lives, and where reviews of damage are urgently required – getting communications operational is therefore essential.  


Prior planning can take a lot of the time out of getting networks back up and running following a disaster. Mobile operators should establish frameworks for categorising the scale of a disaster to better co-ordinate the appropriate logistical response. There should also be agreed processes in place beforehand for information-sharing with other operators, government agencies and aid organisations, so that technical assessments and restorations are executed quickly. 


Providing access to information is also a key priority, and is an area where operators are well-positioned to support. Most mobile users have their phones on or near them all the time; this provides a way for critical information to be distributed in a timely manner during emergencies. This can be combined with geographical data to send early warnings to those in the path of a natural disaster, or used in the aftermath to communicate where the nearest aid and shelter is available for people affected.


Above all, one of the most important factors for efficient disaster relief is collaboration. Getting infrastructure up and running, providing access to information, and offering much-needed communications in an emergency is always the result of many different parties working together. Following the recent Typhoon Haiyan, SAP Mobile Services partnered with three Filipino operators - Globe Telecom, Smart Communications and Sun Cellular, to provide free international SMS services to customers. All three operators are 10-year partners of SAP Mobile Services, and worked closely with us during this critical period to ensure that millions of people were able to reach loved-ones more easily.


Fostering relationships with external agencies, regulators and governments is fundamental for operators to be able to put plans in place before disaster strikes, which will ultimately save lives when the worst happens.


About the Author
As VP and Head of Global Sales for SAP Mobile Services, a division of SAP, Mark is responsible for the continued profitable growth of the company’s global messaging revenues across the telecommunications community and all other market verticals. Mark has been instrumental to bringing to market SAP’s Consumer Insight product that helps to unlock the value of consumer data residing in mobile networks.