Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 storm near Rockport, Texas on August 25th. In a given year, one storm of this historic magnitude is plenty, but in the short six weeks since we have also seen the wrath of Irma, Maria and Nate. You know that it is a bad year for hurricanes when Ireland issues its first severe weather alert in its history. Hurricane Ophelia battered the Irish coast as a category 3 storm on October 16th. Mother Nature has been working overtime in 2017.
Here at our Petaluma, California headquarters we have been busy deploying equipment and contingency communications solutions into all of the affected areas surrounding the Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico events. This past week the challenges intensified and hit much closer to home as Sonoma County has erupted with wildfires fueled by an abundance of dry brush and Diablo winds that can reach gusts of 70 miles per hour. 220,000 acres burned in 13 fires that resulted in over 6,700 homes and businesses destroyed. Most of these people had mere minutes to escape with their lives ahead of the fast-moving flames.
Whether caused by hurricanes or wildfires, the loss of life and property has been devastating to so many. The impacts to these communities and entire regions are enormous and it will take years, not months for them to recover and rebuild. Moody’s estimates that losses from Harvey and Irma be $150-200 billion. Puerto Rico was already in a tenuous financial position with many pre-existing infrastructure problems and could see losses as high as $95 billion. Our hearts go out to all those affected everywhere, especially our friends and neighbors here in Northern California who still face imminent danger from additional wildfires.
As with any tragedy, there are always inspiring stories of bravery and other selfless acts to help our fellow man. Of course the first responders always deserve our undying thanks. They leave their own families and homes in these uncertain times to help those in their communities risking their own lives in the process. How about the hundreds of people who showed up with their own boats in Houston to help ferry thousands of people to high ground? It is truly great to see us come together in the face of danger at a time when we all seem so divided in our everyday lives.
Here at X2nSat we have been burning the midnight oil to do what we can to help our customers and the communities affected by these natural disasters. In advance of Hurricane Harvey we saw a massive uptick in our satellite handheld phone rental program to provide mobility voice options in anticipation of the loss of primary communications from the storms.
In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, we also saw a half dozen hospitals around Houston lose their primary voice circuits during or after the storm. These facilities had contingency services in place with us as X2nSat customers that allowed them to continue to make outbound calls and receive inbound calls over the X2nSat satellite connection at a time where communication can mean the difference between life and death. We also had several emergency deployments to new customers who had lost primary communications and had no backup plan in place before the storm.
The events surrounding Hurricane Irma were less dramatic and intense from our perspective due to the fact that far fewer people and businesses lost primary voice communications. In both storms we saw customers that had X2nSat’s VSAT Business Continuity solution in advance of the storms that were able to immediately utilize voice and data services when primary connectivity solutions failed.
Our mobile VSAT services were deployed with several clients for disaster recovery efforts as well. This is the technology that FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard utilizes when they come into a disaster situation when electricity and communications have been widely disrupted. Without a base of communications to coordinate resources, many more lives would remain in jeopardy in these dangerous scenarios. Once a disaster zone has calmed down and the imminent threat to human life has passed, these communications tools help hasten recovery efforts and ease the pain and suffering of victims. It can take weeks and months to begin to restore primary communications and electricity after events of the magnitude we have seen during the 2017 hurricane season.
Related: The Fury of the Storm: Win the Fight
Unfortunately the people of Puerto Rico know this all too well after being ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September. Basically, the entire utility infrastructure for the island that was home to 3.5 million people was completely destroyed. Add the additional logistical challenge of getting relief supplies and equipment to a relatively small island that lost most of their roads and the difficulties are multiplied. X2nSat is in the process of deploying services to several hospitals as soon as we can get equipment to the island. There is no timeline for a return to normalcy in Puerto Rico. Most of the immediate efforts are focused on providing food, clean water and proper medical care to those in need.
Only one cellular provider has regained limited operation at this point and people with Cable data/Internet services have been told there is no estimate on when service will be restored. Satellite will be the most likely solution for companies that need data and voice services until they can figure out how to restore the landline communication options in the longer term.
Satellite communications have proven themselves time and again under the most difficult disaster situations. After the storm passes and individuals begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild, emergency satellite communications have been essential to first responders of course and hospitals providing life-saving medical care, but they have also enabled POS services and normal banking operations such as ATM networks to begin working again. Restoring these capabilities quickly can mean the difference between a business getting back on its feet or never opening their doors again.
We hope Mother Nature calms down a bit and allows everyone an opportunity to regroup and pick up the pieces and put lives and communities back together again. As an individual you should always have a plan for you and your family and always heed the warnings of emergency officials. Your business or organization is no different. We hope you do not ever have to activate your backup plans, but putting in place a business continuity/disaster recovery plan in advance of a catastrophic event could be a key factor in survival for your enterprise.
Related: Business as Usual