Wireless Power Use-Case: Restoring Communications & Power, Post-Disaster

Wireless Power Use-Case: Restoring Communications & Power, Post-Disaster

In 2020, there were 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters across the United States, shattering the previous annual record of 16 events, which occurred in 2017 and 2011.The billion-dollar events of 2020 included a record seven (7) disasters linked to tropical cyclones, thirteen (13) to severe storms, one (1) to drought, and one (1) to wildfires. The twenty-two (22) events cost the nation a combined $95 billion in damages. There is much discussion about whether we can control the frequency or severity of these events but there is no argument we could/should do more to prepare.

When disaster strikes it can often result in significant loss of power and the ability to communicate. The initial response teams rely on power and communications to implement rescue and repair operations and the victims depend on wireless communication to keep them connected to important services. Imagine the impact on these operations of being able to quickly set up communications, lighting, battery charging stations, etc…without having to run wires to every node needing power!

delivering power disaster site

More and more rescue and assistance tools depend on new technology and most new technology requires power. Think drones, high-speed 4G/5G communication networks, networked medical equipment and sensors, LED lighting, cell and battery recharging stations and much more. Today, the solution is a combination of generators, batteries and wires and, as a result, most recovery operations become massive refueling operations.

Wireless power transfer systems would allow faster and more localized distribution of power; important equipment could plug in to power without waiting for cords & cables from the nearest generator and those remote operational nodes would be free from the noise, emission and fuel that come with a local generator.

Restoring communication after a disaster that causes an outage is one of the critical elements of minimizing damage to the citizens.

“The feeling of being connected is important during a disaster and in areas with cell reception, the ability to reach a loved one or receive an important bit of information can be critical” — Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

The need for people to stay connected during and after a disaster strikes is important, now more than ever, due to the degree with which we all rely on these communications platforms for connection to current information, services and family.

    • Many people get important information via social media platforms on community-wide focused messaging.
    • They call loved ones which decreases stress and anxiety and reduces the tendency to put themselves in more harm trying to reach them.
    • They receive instructions about resources available – food, water, medicine and other essentials.
    • These connections enable officials to manage donation collection & distribution efforts.
    • Connected cell phone can enable collection of important location information during rescue efforts.
    • Web-enabled platforms help supporters to deal with language translation issues as many communities have immigrant or non-English speaking elements who struggle with interfacing with the assistance personnel or shelters.

In Hurricane Sandy…Chris Thompson, president of nonprofit Humanity Road, said she got to 17-mile-long Rockaway Peninsula in New York seven days into Hurricane Sandy and she was sitting in a “doughnut hole of a total blackout. There was still no communications to speak of,” she said. “There was about a 17-mile by 15-mile square that was completely blacked out.”

“With the increase in natural disasters, the nation’s recent memory of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy and the prospect of a magnitude 9.0 Cascadia earthquake in the NW, it is imperative that public and private sector entities explore potential solutions for combating and mitigating damage to the electrical grid and disruption from power outages.” (The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies)

Wireless power will be an important tool in the effort to minimize the initial impact of power and communications disruptions post-disaster and speed the recovery, rescue and restoration efforts of the responding agencies.