Keywords: wireless communications, inclusive design, emergency communications, assistive technologies, resilience policy, multimodal interfaces, UK, United Kingdom, emergency management, Carlisle floods, terrorist bombings, London underground bombings, London bombs, broadcast communications, point-to-point communications, communications networks, mobile devices, communications devices, resilient communications, mobile communications, satellite networks, secure radio networks
Inclusive wireless technology for emergency communications in the UK
We begin with a short review of the limitations of UK practice and government policy on wireless emergency communications. We focus on the limitations of current practice with reference to brief case studies from two recent emergencies: The Carlisle storms and flooding of January 2005, and the terrorist bombings of London's public transport on 7 July 2005. The public, including elderly and vulnerable people, were at risk as a result of two types of communications difficulties during these events, and many only received communications from rescuers on the ground. The currently available technologies for emergency communication in the UK are then analysed with respect to three dimensions: 1) whether and to what degree the technology is suitable for broadcast or point-to-point communications; 2) whether the technology is based on wireless or fixed wired networks; 3) the timeline requirement of the emergency, from initial alert, through emergency response communication requirements, to information and communication provision for those immediately involved and finally to the general public. In the process, the relationship between communications networks and communications devices is considered, and both are examined for their impact on effectiveness and accessibility under emergency conditions. This is followed by a discussion of their individual potential for providing inclusive fixed and wireless emergency communications, and suggestions are made for further investigation.