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First Responders Inmarsat Portable Satellite VSAT

May 12, 2022

How Satellite Technology Can Help First Responders With Disaster Relief

Over the last 20 years, there has been a staggering rise in the number of extreme weather events. According to a recent report by the United Nations, between 2000 and 2019, there have been 7,348 major natural disasters worldwide. Tragically, these have led to the deaths of 1.23 million people and resulted in an astounding $2.97 trillion in global economic losses.
With natural disasters becoming more frequent and hurricane season already in progress, it’s vital First Responders look at how they can utilize technology to best aid emergency response efforts. Boasting ubiquitous coverage, satellite technology has been used to support disaster relief efforts since the 1970s.

How First Responders can leverage satellite technology

Satellite imaging and analysis has and continues to develop, delivering crucial, accurate and real-time information to teams on the ground. As an example, California National Guard have been using satellite technology since 2018, to help them fight wildfires.
Satellites equipped with sensors are able to pick up hot spots via infrared radiation detection, effectively enabling them to see heat. This helps the state’s National Guard to detect and map fires, as well as assess the damage they cause. When a blaze is detected, a heads up is sent to one of two California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection-U.S. Forest Service regional operations centers in the state. From there, analysts use the information provided to “very rapidly determine whether or not the fires are campfires or car fires or a fire that could indeed become a very dangerous wildfire” – explains California Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David Baldwin.
However, aerial imaging is not the only way satellite technology can enable a more effective, safer, emergency response. Although terrestrial networks are built to be resilient, outages due to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other severe weather is common. With many natural disasters rendering terrestrial infrastructure inoperable, increasingly, redundant communications are becoming an integral part of disaster relief and management.

First Responder communications

For First Responders, the importance of communication can never be underestimated. Ultimately, response disciplines must connect and work together, to ensure the best outcomes during disaster recovery and maintaining public safety more generally.
However, it was reported by the government that first responders in the US rely on more than 10,000 separate, incompatible, and often proprietary radio networks to communicate with each other during emergencies. Given the significant consequences of not being able to properly disseminate information during an emergency, this is concerning.

Critical SATCOM for First Responders

Today, satellite communications (satcom) play an essential role in the global telecommunications system. Approximately 2,000 artificial satellites orbiting Earth relay signals carrying voice, video and data to and from, one or many locations worldwide. While many may be familiar with the benefits of push-to-talk devices and satellite phones, VSAT and BGAN terminals can also be particularly effective during disaster management.
Following the mass destruction of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, 900 VSAT terminals were deployed at sites around the affected region and critical locations including San Juan Airport. VSAT terminals can enable:

  • Data and broadband connectivity
  • Voice communications
  • High throughput data
  • Drone video backhaul
  • Red Phone Emergency Responder Voice Network access

As such, they can prove invaluable during disaster relief. VSAT and BGAN terminals not only deliver rapidly deployable connectivity, enabling effective response coordination, they also deliver instant infrastructure. First Responders and recovery teams can communicate with each other and relevant control center(s), analyze the situation and make adjustments.
Connectivity also empowers teams to better support continuity throughout the recovery process. For example, enabling point of sale (POS) credit and debit card authorizations and inventory management, meaning individuals can purchase recovery essentials including food and fuel.
With over 20 years experience enabling critical safety across the globe, Ground Control has been a trusted name in Emergency Responder satcom since 2002.

VSAT and BGAN solutions for Emergency Responders

Toughsat Flyaway Mobile Hotspot

The Toughsat Flyaway is often used by emergency services that need a quick and portable VSAT antenna for both high-speed internet and VoIP phone services for on-site personnel.

The Toughsat Flyaway satellite system delivers Ground Control’s powerful Toughsat XP satellite solution, in an easily transportable set-up. The multi-functional stabilization brackets work for both ground mounting and roof-rack “fly-and-drive” mounting – even on rental vehicles. With an auto-pointing antenna, robust, high-speed internet and redundant communications can be quickly deployed at any location.

We’re proud to say our Toughsat solutions are trusted by hundreds of Urban Search and Rescue agencies, Federal Police, State, County and City Law Enforcement and Fire Departments throughout the United States today.

MCD-4800 “The Football”

Similarly, the MCD-4800 “Mobile Communications Device”, also known as “The Football”, is also capable of providing redundant communications and high-speed internet, anywhere in the world. The auto-pointing BGAN satellite terminal requires no user training to operate and can be used in extreme weather conditions.

Users simply place the weatherproof case on the ground or any surface with a clear view of the sky, turn it on and close the lid. Within a minute the MCD-4800 becomes a powerful WiFi hotspot accessible by any wireless device within a 100 meter range for up to 5 hours on internal battery power.

This auto-pointing solution uses the high performance Hughes 9450TW in-motion BGAN terminal integrated with our proprietary mobile electronics for a ruggedized, self-contained, user-friendly, global communications link.

Ground Control’s emergency communications satellite equipment meets or complies with all SAFECOM requirements, for emergency interoperable communication equipment.

Ultimately, satellite technology helps promote First Responder safety and efficiency, during disaster recovery. The technology has already been used worldwide to monitor events, improve responses and drive resilience post-disaster, providing infrastructure support.

If you’d like to get in touch to discuss potential satellite solutions for your organization or agency, simply email

Get in touch

With over 20 years experience facilitating emergency preparedness and response across the globe, we understand that in a crisis, every second counts. We’re constantly evolving and adapting our Public Safety offer and systems to best support teams on the ground. Which is just part of the reason Ground Control has been a trusted name in Emergency Responder satcom since 2002. Whatever your communication or connectivity needs, we can help.