Satellite phones soon for Mumbai's relief teams

Feb 15, 2018, 17:16 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

BMC begins process of getting permissions to procure phones for Mumbai Fire Brigade, civic hospital authorities and ward officers

Satellite phones soon for Mumbais relief teamsIllustration/Ravi Jadhav

Keeping his word on providing "robust and reliable" communication during disaster situations, BMC chief Ajoy Mehta has begun the process of purchasing satellite phones at the cost of Rs 75 lakh for key relief and rescue providers, including the Fire Brigade, civic hospitals and 24 ward officers in city, to ensure they are connected round the clock.

Mehta, in his budget speech this year, had proposed to introduce satellite phones, in addition to the existing functional wireless VHF system that were installed in 2008-09. "The VHS system lacks certain advanced communication features. We now intend to upgrade the system," Mehta had said.

As per the budget provision, the BMC has set aside Rs 75 lakh to procure satellite phones and another Rs 1.25 crore to upgrade the communication system. The satellite phones will help mobilise communication between the various rescue and relief departments during emergencies.

During a disaster situation, it is the fire brigade, which first rushes to the spot, to carry out rescue operation. Throughout the rescue period, fire officials are connected with the disaster cell of the BMC, which works as a mediator to collect and pass on information, and mobilise other forces. Hospital authorities also serve as an important link, as they provide necessary machinery and equipment. "The problem arises when phone lines, which serve as the most effective channel of communication, are down.

This could affect and disrupt the entire rescue and relief operation," said a BMC official, on condition of anonymity.

The BMC is currently in the process of getting the requisite permissions from the Centre to operate the phones.

Another civic officer, who did not wish to be named, said, "These phones will be operational even when all phone lines are dead. We are still working on the plan as we are now identifying the number of permissions involved in purchasing such phones. We will mostly importantly need permissions from the defence department."

When contacted, Mahesh Narv­ekar, chief officer of the disaster management cell, said, "We are working on the proposal. Once procured relief operations can be carried out without any loss of communication between the relief providing agencies."

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