ITU responds to COVID-19 with new guidelines for emergencies

ITU, which is based in Geneva, said it has already assisted several countries in developing their national emergency telecom plans. (Pixabay)

Citing the global coronavirus crisis, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched new guidelines to assist countries in their development of national emergency telecommunication plans.

The ITU said the guidelines will assist national authorities and policymakers in developing policies and regulations that can ensure the continued use of telecom networks and services before, during and after a disaster.

"The exceptional COVID-19 crisis we are going through right now shows how vital information and communication technology networks and services are, both to respond to the current pandemic and to address disaster management," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao in a statement. "Now more than ever, the implementation of comprehensive national emergency telecommunication plans can ensure there is effective and timely sharing of information across all levels of government, within affected communities and among humanitarian agencies to prioritize response efforts and to save lives."

RELATED: ITU closes HQ in Geneva to delegates

The guidelines highlight major areas of risk during a disaster, provide justification for the funding of vital equipment and personnel in an emergency, and advocate the need for day-to-day resources and procedures that keep national authorities prepared, especially in relation to maintaining vital communications.

ITU said it has already assisted several countries in developing their national emergency telecommunication plans, the setting up of early warning and monitoring systems and the provision of emergency telecommunications equipment.

It’s crucial that all stakeholders are prepared before an emergency strikes, according to Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. Mock exercises, including talk-through and walk-through exercises and full-scale drills, help ensure a smooth emergency response by those involved in disaster management and communications.

RELATED: FCC’s O’Rielly suggests ‘G7-like’ alternative to ITU

The ITU closed its doors to delegates and most visitors at ITU premises in Geneva, Switzerland, starting March 16. The government of Switzerland limited access to the country earlier this month in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the country more or less went on lockdown this past week.

The land-locked country next to Italy, which is home to a population of about 8.5 million, has become one of the top 10 countries most affected by COVID-19.