Indonesia: TSF reinforces emergency response systems

On October 25th 2010, an earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami struck the Mentawai Islands, a group of four large islands – Siberut, Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Seletan - situated off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia.

A TSF team was immediately deployed to Indonesia from its regional base in Bangkok, Thailand, at the request of the Office of the President of Indonesia and in coordination with the Indonesian government’s disaster management agency (BNPB). The TSF team's deployment was facilitated by ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

In addition to the immediate assistance provided after the disaster, TSF worked in partnership with the European Commission (ECHO) to reinforce the islands’ disaster response system by providing emergency telecom kits to local relief organisations and training them in their use. The Mentawai Islands are located in one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions and any improvement to the communication system will have a direct impact on saving lives and providing timely assistance during future disasters.

During the initial phase of the operation, our team of experts provided technical support to the emergency coordination centre at Sikakap, the capital of the Pagai islands, by installing internet connections and satellite phone lines which enabled 32 organisations to conduct a more efficient emergency response.

TSF also provided a free phone service so that people affected by the disaster could make contact with their relatives. During this calling operation, the TSF team became aware of the severe logistical and communication challenges that organisations serving the Islands face, as the majority of the population live in areas that are hard to access.

Existing communication infrastructure on the Mentawai Islands is limited. The only network operator is Telkom and its mobile division Telkomsel. They provide landlines but this provision is limited to the major towns of Pagai Utara, Sipora and Siberut. Similarly the Telkomsel GSM network is also limited to the main towns, therefore the majority of the islands remains out of reach of any effective communication network. On the Pagai islands, telecommunications were only available in the capital city Sikakap. Following the disaster, these limited communication services became over-saturated which slowed down the ability of local organisations to assist affected communities.

In response to this, TSF launched a project designed to improve the communication capability of local organisations involved in disaster response. This project, funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), provided eight organisations with a new communication system that reaches across each of the four main islands and includes 26 satellite phones and two large emergency communication kits.

The beneficiaries of this equipment were identified through close dialogue with local authorities and the humanitarian community. They were chosen based on their long-term commitment and experience in providing support to the Mentawai Islands as they have the capacity needed to support and sustain the equipment. TSF provided training to each organisation to ensure that they will be able to use the equipment to conduct a more efficient and effective emergency response, that will help meet the needs of people on the Mentawai Islands in the event of future disasters.
The two large kits were donated to 2 organisations, the BPBD Mentawai (Local division of the governmental Disaster response organisation), and Air Putih, an Indonesian NGO who provide ICT assistance to the humanitarian community post disaster, and with whom TSF has worked closely on a few occasions in Indonesia.

TSF also donated 24 satellite phones (Isatphone Pro). These kits were delivered to locally based-organisations with the ability to sustain and care for the equipment; the BPBD Mentawai, CDRM, GKPM, KEUSKUPAN, READY, YCM, and the Mentawai district health authority (3 local health centres). All these organisations have operations that extend over the 4 islands of Mentawai and the phones will be distributed over all of the islands.

Whilst we do hope that no more emergencies befall the islands in the near future. This part of Indonesia is one of the most disaster prone areas of the world. When future disasters strike the communication equipment supplied by TSF can provide a lifeline to communities on the islands.

End of the program: 27th January 2011
telecom emergency kit training 7-400telecom emergency kit training 3-400