Not every incident involving Kent County RAYNET needs radios or is due to a communications blackout.
RAYNET started in the 50’s because the east coast floods knocked out telephones, and licensed radio amateurs provided vital communication links. Thankfully, events on that scale are rare and modern technology has made radio a part of every response group’s armoury.
But the march of technology has also raised expectations and demands. Modern response plans, and the public, make two assumptions unthought of a generation ago. The first is the nearly universal availability of swift contact – everyone carries a mobile telephone, everywhere. The second is the ability of even modest telephones – let alone specialist kit – to create and deliver video, transmit data files, and handle high quality conference calls.
In response, Kent County RAYNET has developed the services it offers, and how and when they can be delivered. We no longer plan solely for Kent losing all of its communications links. (It’s possible, and we are ready for it, but it’s highly unlikely.)
Today, a strong focus is on local connectivity, filling in the vital last mile. For example, we can deliver internet access and telephones to locations that don’t ordinarily have them. We are happy to do this for local councils, communities, our colleagues in the voluntary sector, and the statutory emergency services should they need them.
Every October, we are invited by the Kent Resilience Team to test, verify and demonstrate our capabilities. (KRT is the combined emergency planning team for Kent’s police, fire, and county council.). This coincides with their Beachmaster coastal protection training course. After all, there are few better tests than turning a random beach car park into a temporary office space with working phones, email access and document processing capabilities. And it’s fair to say that every year, KRT is delighted with our service.
The scenario starts with a fictitious oil spill, just off the coast. Shoreline Cleanup Assessors are sent to assess the damage and response requirements. They spend an hour or so taking photographs, filling in forms, and recording the results of chemical tests. This data, vital to the clean-up operation, is then passed to Kent County RAYNET operators for transmission to the emergency centres involved.
Our systems are resilient and can be encrypted end-to-end for privacy and security. They are also fast. It usually takes just a few minutes to get a copy of paperwork and photographs from a previously empty beach to decision-makers and experts miles away.
We help the assessment and other front-line support teams to make calls, review emails, access databases and hold secure conferences with their offices, without relying on mobile phone signals. This adds real speed to the overall response – which is good for the environment and for public confidence.
If the control centre wants a video feed from the site – say an overview from a camera drone – we can facilitate it. At a recent exercise, this video was sent back in virtually real-time to several locations simultaneously, including a resilience officer’s mobile phone.
To make this happen, we use generators, satellite internet and powerful 4G modems with long distance antennas to connect with mobile phone masts that ordinary handsets simply cannot contact from the site.
We can also cover the car park, the beach and other support teams’ working areas with Wi-Fi, using mesh-enabled repeaters to ensure everyone has access. If you need to bring your own equipment, the chances are we can connect it.
And yes, we still use radios to keep in-touch over the incident area. We really do love radios.
If you think you’ll need our services, or just wish to better understand what we could offer, please contact us. We maintain a 24/7/365 call-out system and provide complete coverage of Kent and Medway.
We will be there when you need us.