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During an emergency response, access to a reliable communication infrastructure is required to exchange accurate information in a timely manner. Various communication technologies have been deployed for emergency response; however communication between different first response organizations has always been a problem. This is due to either broken networks or lack of knowledge regarding the channel frequency in use for the same device. According to recent investigations, text messaging was shown to be more reliable than voice to exchange short messages carrying critical information. Additionally, posting and updating the information on an electronic webpage accessible to all is also very useful. In addition, we would also suggest that team leaders physically stand together, thus improving network resource utilization plus ensuring receipt of updates and information from peers in the event the higher ranked person in the hierarchy is not reachable. In this paper, we present supporting arguments for the choice of a wireless mesh network as a candidate to provide communication infrastructure for emergency response. We also present a comprehensive set of technical, social and organizational challenges which we experienced first hand during several deployments, learned about in interviews with emergency responders and by examination of the after-incident reports. Many of these challenges become even more of a concern and have a greater impact on international disasters concerning multiple countries when traditionally different technologies are used often in conjunction with different languages. We also present the results of network performance analysis which identifies sources of bottleneck and overhead in communication. A distributed control hierarchical authority is necessary to prevent bottleneck and the need to cancel an already scheduled path due to resource unavailability or security breach.
Date of Conference: 12-14 Oct. 2008