Other States

Odisha set to introspect post-disaster communication

Construction workers on Sunday rebuilding houses which were destroyed by Cyclone Fani in Puri.   | Photo Credit: ASIT KUMAR

Puri remained cut-off for 48 hours after cyclone Fani made landfall in the district on May 3 and the State control room was not able to establish regular communication with the district headquarters, resulting in utter confusion in relief and rescue operations.

Experts now blame it on breakdown of post-disaster communication while the State disaster managers are all set to introspect how it failed for the first time since Super Cyclone in 1999.

Two teams of HAM radio operators from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal came to the rescue of the State which takes a lot of pride for its pioneering efforts in disaster management. HAM radio was the chief mode of communication for the first several hours.

Expert opinion

“When disaster comes, communication becomes the first casualty. Communications are of two types – terrestrial and satellite-based. Telephone, FAX, HAM radio and VHF are part of terrestrial communication which requires infrastructure – tower for mobile phones, cable for land phones and antenna for VHF or HAM radios. For satellite communications, handheld phone is enough as it does not depend on terrestrial facilities such as power, tower and antenna,” said an expert.


For a brief period, the State control room was able to talk to Suresh Mohapatra, State Forest and Environment Secretary, who was stationed in Puri, over satellite phone. But the communication could not be carried on. A messenger had to be sent physically on May 5 to Puri to find out the status. Even the Odisha State Wide Area Network (OSWAN), which was set up to connect the State with 30 district headquarters and 284 block headquarters and 61 horizontal offices through data, video and voice communications also failed.

The VHF communication being used by the police administration had very limited reach during the disaster.

The expert emphasised that the disaster communication should have been multi-layered – if one fails, there should be an alternative channel to fall back upon.

“The State did not have any problem with pre-disaster communications. But, when it came to post-disaster communication, it faltered especially after Fani struck the State,” he said.

Asked about the failure of communication, State Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi admitted “there was temporary failure in establishing communication with the Puri district administration.”

“We have to think of having fail-safe communication after the disaster.”

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 2:58:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-set-to-introspect-post-disaster-communication/article27109787.ece

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