Just a dot on the vast map of Indonesia, the Mentawai Islands are no less vulnerable to nature’s wrath as tsunamis in 2004 and 2010 proved. The latest tsunami struck the islands of Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Seletan in October 2010 as a three-metre (nine-foot) wave swept through 20 villages, killing at least 435 people and leaving 20,000 homeless.
The Inmarsat constellation, the worldwide leader in mobile satellite communications supported essential data and video footage using airtime and equipment supplied by TDCOM – a subsidiary of Inmarsat distribution partner Vizada. Inmarsat-sponsored Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) was one of the first on the scene, establishing Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN Service) equipped communication centers and providing IsatPhone Pro Satellite Phone for voice calls in the field.
Realizing that the islands needed their own emergency telecommunication facilities, Justin Waller, TSF manager for the Indonesia project, said: “There is a lack of communication infrastructure on the islands, with landlines and mobiles only covering the major towns. Our project was designed to improve the communications capability of local organizations involved in disaster response.”
TSF provided portable BGAN Service kits as well as a range of other sat com equipment, the cost of which was born by the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO). The two largest kits established a communications hub to operate at the center of a future disaster response. These were given to Indonesia’s local government disaster response organisation – BPBD Mentawai – and to a major Indonesian non-governmental organization (NGO), Air Putih.
The larger kits contained:
- IsatPhone Pro handheld satellite terminal plus an IsatDock docking station, antenna and 20 meters of cabling
- BGAN Explorer 500 terminal
- Wireless router
- Notebook computer
- Multi-purpose fax, scanner, copier and printer
- Durable Pelican transport case
- GSM modem, SIM card and credit
- Honda portable electricity generator
- Documentation, software and system restore facility on a USB key.
Four smaller kits containing just an IsatPhone Pro satellite phone and an IsatDock docking station and cabling were supplied for use by other organizations, as were 19 IsatPhone Pro handsets. A substantial airtime credit, valid for four years, was also included. The smaller kits were deployed to several local organizations, including three local health centers run by the district health authority.
Waller added: “The kits and training have been delivered to organizations with the capability of both looking after the equipment and sustaining the skills to use it. All these organizations have operations that extend over the islands and the equipment will be distributed throughout all four of them. Early feedback from organizations has been positive – particularly as regards the IsatPhone Pro.”