Critical Infrastructure - Communications

Communication is instantaneous today. With a push of a button, individuals can send and receive text messages, phone calls, and emails. What once was a voice service has transformed into terrestrial, satellite, and wireless transmission systems that have become interconnected and reliant upon one another. If one or more of these systems become disrupted, emergency responders can experience difficulties serving and protecting residents.

Climate change causes more frequent and severe weather events that can disrupt communication systems. These disruptions are an even greater threat in rural or socially isolated communities where communication is vital to ensuring people remain safe during climatic events such as flooding, heat waves, tornadoes, and severe storms. Communication systems can be disrupted as storms electrocute transformers, sever power lines, and knock out other communication infrastructure. Additionally, more people use communication systems during an emergency, which can overwhelm systems not equipped to handle the increased usage. An overwhelmed system can prevent information from getting to residents and hamper coordination between emergency responders.

 An additional implication is that in Midwestern states, around half of rural regions do not have broadband internet access. With other forms of communication likely to experience outages during severe weather events, a lack of access to broadband internet can hamper emergency response and messaging in rural areas.

A breakdown in communication systems can also cause challenges for senior citizens and residents with disabilities who may have limited physical mobility and support systems. These limitations are often exacerbated by disrupted communication systems, making it even more difficult for vulnerable residents to quickly remove themselves from a hazardous situation. If established emergency and communication infrastructure is overwhelmed or not functioning, responders will be less able to effectively provide information to senior citizens and residents with disabilities and ultimately protect these vulnerable residents. 

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