On 19 March 2020, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched new guidelines for the development and implementation of National Emergency Telecommunication Plans. As explained in the guidelines:
The implementation of a national emergency telecommunication plan (NETP) is an essential prerequisite for policy, procedures, and governance that enable reliable and resilient information and communications in all four phases of disaster risk management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
The effective management of the risk of disasters depends on communication and information sharing across all levels of government, within communities, and between public and private organizations. In particular, timely and effective information flow is important for early warning and alerting the population, for preparing for an emergency event, and for the effective coordination and articulation of response activities that can minimize economic loss, mitigate the impact on public well-being and loss of life.
The guidelines include the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: The NETP should take into consideration current capabilities, coordination challenges, planned resiliency requirements, with an understanding of the country’s overall risk for telecommunication/ICT infrastructure and contingency planning, taking into account that hazards and vulnerabilities will vary widely between regions or even within countries. This overall risk analysis, developed jointly with telecommunication/ICT operators, should include geographic maps depicting the risk and telecommunication/ICT landscapes of the country.
- Recommendation 2: The NETP should include a description of the phases of disaster management based on the national disaster risk management plan adopted within the country and describe how telecommunication/ICT will be supported/enabled in each of these phases. The NETP should be governed by a set of principles that include, among others, addressing the country’s potential hazards, participation from all stakeholders, both public and private, and the identification of all the telecommunication/ICT facilities that are required for different emergencies.
- Recommendation 3: The NETP should include clear administrative structures, processes and communication protocols essential to the satisfactory implementation of the plan, taking into account the specific needs, laws, regulations, institutions and other characteristics particular to a given country, including but not limited to, the national disaster risk management plan.
- Recommendation 4: Legislation and regulation regarding telecommunication/ICTs for disaster management should be in place or put in place and described in the NETP. Such legislation should provide high-level guidance on the development of the NETP, while still allowing regulatory flexibility during its construction and implementation. A description of the legislation, regulation, policies, and authorities related to telecommunication/ ICTs for disaster management must be included in the NETP.
- Recommendation 5: The NETP should contain information on all existing telecommunication/ ICT networks (public and private) available for use in a disaster event, a vulnerability and risk analysis of these telecommunication/ICT networks, and network contingency plans for when emergencies and disasters occur. This information should be periodically reviewed and updated.
- Recommendation 6: Multi-hazard early warning systems should be designed and deployed, linking all hazard-monitoring systems when possible to take advantage of economies of scale and enhance sustainability and efficiency through a multipurpose user-centric framework. An inventory of such systems, together with the processes used to activate them, should be included in the NETP and periodically reviewed and updated.
- Recommendation 7: The NETP should include a description of, and reference to, all international cooperation and coordination treaties and bilateral agreements that the country has signed regarding disaster management. In particular, countries are encouraged to take steps to ratify and implement the Tampere Convention and to take the necessary actions to put plans, policies, and procedures in place at national and local level, to ensure that the Convention and any other disaster management agreements relating to telecommunication/ICTs will be effective in a disaster situation. Such policies are necessary regardless of whether or not a country has ratified the Tampere Convention.
- Recommendation 8: The NETP should include a mechanism for enhancing training and capacity building for both the administrators leading emergency responses and the wider community using and providing telecommunication/ICTs in emergencies. This requires not only practice drills, training activities, tests and other exercises, but also the development of the curriculum for these activities and the evaluation and possible modification of any existing procedures and policies.
- Recommendation 9: The NETP should detail how to support continued availability of multiple forms of telecommunication/ICTs to provide messages and inform/alert impacted people, including those with specific needs, and marginalised communities. It is important to ensure that the NETP correctly describes, and appropriately responds to everyone’s needs.
- Recommendation 10: Cybersecurity planning, defined to include prevention, detection, response, and recovery, should be included as a foundational requirement to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of communications services to support emergency operations.
- Recommendation 11: Annual exercises should be held and the NETP should be updated after every drill and operation to incorporate lessons learned, and be fully reviewed at least every three to five years.
The guidelines are accessible here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected]frica.