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Hurricane Irma, UK organisation Rescue Global deploys aid team to the Virgin Islands

The team of ten, which includes medics and search and rescue personnel travelled out to the Caribbean on Thursday 14th September to assist in the co-ordination of aid and relief efforts following the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma.

One of the largest challenges faced when co-ordinating disaster relief situations is reliable, effective communications. Central co-ordination is essential in ensuring that available resources are deployed efficiently, agencies involved in the relief effort are well informed and that the safety of their personnel is ensured.  

With little or no terrestrial communications available across the islands requiring assistance, Rescue Global will be dependent on satellite technology, supplied by AST Systems (AST), to provide them with a reliable communications infrastructure.
Rescue Global is working with the US, UK and Caribbean governments, the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the UN, USAID, FEMA and over 60 humanitarian agencies in assessing urgent requirements and mobilising the correct resources to reach the most vulnerable. 

Their mission, Operation Ursula, forms part of a Caribbean Air Bridge Operation partnership with Airlink, Lift and Patient AirLift Services (PALS), and is providing command, control, communications, computers, intelligence (C4I) capabilities, aerial and ground reconnaissance, needs assessments, search and rescue, aid delivery, medical assistance and inter-agency coordination and support. 

Pauline Truckle, Director of AST Systems said; “We have supplied the team with crucial communications equipment for their operation including; BGAN terminals to provide high speed broadband and data transfer from anywhere on the islands, and satellite handsets to enable reliable voice and SMS communications.  The handsets are being tracked using AST’s own proprietary data management application called IRIS. IRIS allows the team to remotely manage their assets giving them access to many different functions including; creating geo fences, remotely check battery levels and to send text message to the sat phones, allowing the team peace of mind and help in ensuring their safety.  We wish them all a safe and successful mission.”

Data gathered from across the islands will also be sent back to Rescue Global headquarters and augmented by satellite imagery analysis and “heat maps” created by partners Oxford University and The Zooniverse platform based in the UK and the US. The BGAN units allow this sort of intelligence to be sent between the teams immediately, providing a vital feedback loop.

Rebekah Yore, Operations Manager at Rescue Global commented: “Clear communication lines sit at the heart of Operation Ursula and the achievement of our mission: to save life. In emergency response environments, where traditional communication networks often fail, robust alternative means of reliable reporting and two-way communications is essential. They enable us to share critical information with and coordinate partners, and to deliver assistance where and when it is needed the most, in the safest ways possible.”

The operation is likely to continue over the next 2-4 weeks, and the team’s progress can be followed on the Rescue Global website:; the Rescue Global Facebook page, and Twitter @rescueglobal.