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Communication outage caused by unexpected disasters can occur in short notice, and oftentimes without warning. Even established and sophisticated ground infrastructures, like phone lines and cable systems, can be entirely knocked down or damaged from an unanticipated disaster - rendering previously trusted communication services useless. Unlike terrestrial networks, satellites are completely immune to catastrophic events such as earthquakes, typhoons and landslides. The May 2008 earthquake that hit Sichuan in the western part of China led to a great loss of lives.
The devastating 8-magnitude earthquake destroyed switching centers, mobile stations, underground cables, fiber optic networks and electrical poles - contributing to at least more than a billion USD in telecommunication damages. Within hours after the tragic event, IPSTAR user terminals were deployed by CBSN in heavily affected areas to provide broadband Internet, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Satellite News Gathering (SNG), and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) services. For many disaster survivors and first responders, IPSTAR served as the only source of communications in the hours, days, and weeks following the event - providing connectivity that terrestrial networks could no longer provide after the Sichuan earthquake.
The IPSTAR disaster recovery and emergency communication solution employs a small-sized antenna and a low-power consumption user terminal, making it possible for first responders to use solar panels as the main power source and a battery system for backup.
Specially designed for rugged environments, IPSTAR is also suitable for continuous, heavy-duty and unmanned operations in the field.
The IPSTAR user terminal also supports Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM) for seamless, reliable operation under the most severe weather conditions - especially during the heavy rainstorms that followed a few days after the earthquake. The IPSTAR satellite platform was chosen by CBSN as the preferred cost-effective solution in providing reliable voice, video and data communication services for first responders of the Sichuan earthquake. Japan's physical geography and its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire makes the nation highly susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis.
In Japan, it is not uncommon for earthquakes and tsunamis to cause injury and loss of life, sometimes at tragically high levels.
According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), the earthquake impacted a large part of eastern Japan with a seismic intensity level of six or more, creating widespread damage.
Figure 3: Building in the foreground has been turned upside down by the force of the swollen Kitakami River. This video from Russia Today shows an aerial view of the giant tsunami waves caused by the earthquake. Following the earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima I Nuclear Power Station (located roughly 200 kilometers or 124 miles north of Tokyo) experienced a series of equipment failures that led to a nuclear meltdown and the release of radioactive material into the environment. Located on the immediate coast, the power plant bore the brunt of the tsunami and was flooded with seawater, resulting in the loss of all cooling functions.
Over 12 million people are known to have been impacted by the March 2011 East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster (American Red Cross 2012). Three prefectures along the northeastern coast - Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi - were the most impacted. The damage greatly impacted the economic activities within the 20-30 kilometer (12-19 miles) radius from the nuclear plant.


According to the World Bank, damage from the East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster may ultimately reach $235 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in world history. The time it takes to restore damaged telecommunication lines due to disasters may require days or even weeks, leaving first responders crippled and communities isolated without access to reliable communications.
This devastation was experienced at the recent May 2008 earthquake which heavily struck the industrial province of Sichuan in China.
Satellite platforms, like IPSTAR, can step-in to fill the communication, command and control gaps as a result of crippled terrestrial lines.
The earthquake cut the telecommunication link of Sichuan, resulting to the delay of rescue efforts, while neighboring provinces experienced network congestion after the disaster because of the drastic increase in system traffic. IPSTAR was used to assist relief mission teams on their search and rescue operations, and to keep them updated on the extent of damage caused by the earthquake. Most IPSTAR networks deployed in disaster-hit areas used power generators to keep the system running during the lengthy electricity outage in Sichuan. The IPSTAR user terminal has a rugged enclosure, air ventilation and anti-dust features to withstand the harsh terrains of Sichuan. With the combination of advanced power adjustment and bandwidth-efficient waveforms, ACM automatically adjusts the user terminal's modulation, coding and gain in response to the changing link conditions in Sichuan.
Moreover, Japan is a country with frequent occurrences of extreme weather phenomena such as rainy-season cloudbursts and typhoons. In 1896, more than 20,000 people perished as a result of a tsunami caused by the Sanriku Earthquake.
As the coolant water reached boiling temperatures, the reactors began to overheat, and in the hours and days following the disaster three reactors experienced full meltdown. Those who suffered the most were living along the Pacific coast, where they were affected by both the tsunami and nuclear disaster. In addition to high numbers of fatalities, the infrastructure across these prefectures also suffered heavy damage.
The economic impact includes both immediate problems, such as the slowdown or complete halt of industrial production that occurred directly after the disaster, and the longer term issue of the cost of rebuilding (Kim 2011). People who were forced to migrate have not all returned to their homes, some voluntarily while others involuntarily. The lack of operable terrestrial infrastructure severely impedes the situational awareness, and most importantly, the relief and recovery efforts of the first responders. The IPSTAR product and solution portfolio is designed to meet the precise needs of first responders in putting communication networks back on line in the event of natural or man-made disasters. It also helped reunite families, reconnect communities, and let the world witness the devastation of the disaster - also the many acts of heroism. With compact and robust design, it was easily deployed - either for indoor or outdoor use - in the badly hit areas of the province.
For these reasons, Japan ranks among the countries with the highest number of natural disasters in the world (Teikoku-Shoin 2009).


More recently, in 1995 fires resulting from an earthquake in Hyogo Prefecture (Figure 1) killed over 6,400 people (Teikoku-Shoin 2009).
This earthquake currently ranks as the fourth most powerful earthquake ever recorded (right behind the December 26, 2004 earthquake off Sumatra), and the most powerful ever to strike Japan (USGS 2012). However, it was the tsunami that immediately resulted from the earthquake that caused by far the most devastating impacts in terms of lives lost and property destroyed (Figure 3). Furthermore, as a result of the intense heat generated by the melting reactors, a chemical reaction produced explosive hydrogen gas, and several hydrogen-air chemical explosions occurred as workers struggled to cool and shut down the reactors. In September 2012, a report by a Japanese National Police Agency confirmed that the disaster had resulted in 15,879 deaths, 6,132 injuries, and 2,700 missing persons across 20 prefectures. Table 1 summarizes the damage by prefecture and Figure 4 shows an example of reconstruction in progress.
To follow the lives of people living in the Tohoku region and more generally in Japan, follow the link here.
Because roughly half of the Japanese population lives near the coast on low-lying land with relatively soft volcanic soil, a large number of people are susceptible to the severe shocks that can occur during earthquakes, and are especially vulnerable to tsunamis.
Since the earthquake's epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean, the energy released caused an enormous surge of water.
In response to the meltdown, the Japanese government evacuated all residents (approximately 80,000) within a 20 kilometer (12.5 mile) radius of the nuclear plant, in addition to many more residents within a 20-30 kilometer (12-19 miles) radius (Figure 2) (Takano 2011).
In all, 128,911 buildings totally collapsed, 268,882 half collapsed, and a further 733,719 were at least partially damaged (National Police Agency of Japan 2013). This interactive map shows the location of the earthquake epicenter, the nuclear power plants, and the 20 kilometer (12 mile) radius. About a half hour after the earthquake, a tsunami of over ten meters (33 feet) in height struck the coast of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures (Figure 1), toppling sea walls and other defenses, flooding over 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of land and in some cases washing away entire towns and villages.
In all, over 500 kilometers (311 miles) of Japan's Pacific coast felt the effects of the tsunami.
As of September 2012, approximately 330,000 people remain in these temporary living quarters.
In some areas, the tsunami reached as high as 30 meters (98 feet) above sea level and inundated areas as far as ten kilometers (6 miles) inland from the coast (reliefweb 2012). Those who suffered most were living along the coast where they were affected by both the tsunami and nuclear power plant accident.



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