The internet has become an indispensable part of everyday life. In a disaster scenario, though, it may be one of the first utilities to go. This loss can compromise both rescue efforts by trained personnel and your own ability to look after loved ones.
There’s a solution, though, and it’s one you may not be aware can help: satellite internet.
What Is Satellite Internet?
Satellite internet is exactly what it sounds like: an internet connection beamed directly from a satellite in orbit. Much like satellite TV, satellite internet has the advantage of being available almost anywhere. All you need is a dish antenna and a clear view of the sky.
In the case of disaster prep, satellite internet also offers another advantage: it doesn’t require on-the-ground infrastructure. If a storm or disaster destroys cable lines or cell towers go down, you can still pop out your satellite dish and get online. In a potentially dangerous disaster situation, that’s priceless.
You’ll have some trade-offs, of course. Satellite internet tends to be a little expensive compared to other options. It also tends to suffer from high latency due to the enormous distance the signal has to travel (a satellite in a geosynchronous orbit is at an altitude of +/- 22,236 mi above mean sea level). However, in an emergency, you’re probably not going to be doing much gaming—satellite internet is there when it counts, and that’s really all you can ask for in a disaster scenario.
Why Is Satellite Internet Important in a Disaster?
A storm or earthquake can knock out cable and cellular internet access, but it can’t reach satellites. In the event that other infrastructure is damaged and out of commission after a disaster, satellite internet can still be counted on to work, especially if you have a mobile dish that automatically adjusts. The reliability makes satellite a smart choice for an internet connection in almost any situation.
Here are a few specific ways satellite internet can help in a disaster:
Satellite internet can be used to make VoIP calls when other forms of communication and networking aren’t functioning due to disasters. This can be critical for getting emergency help or letting family know you’re okay.
What’s a VoIP call? It’s a phone call made over the internet, rather than traditional phone lines. It’s often used in business settings because it’s easier to implement advanced features. In a disaster, though, it can also allow you to make contact when phone lines are down.
As you probably know from the creepy ads that seem to follow you around online, it’s pretty easy to determine your location based on your internet connection. In situations where other options for determining location (like cell signals) aren’t working, having a satellite internet connection can serve as a way for responders to find you.
Sure, you can buy an expensive satellite locator beacon, but that’s a one-trick pony. Satellite internet can be used for other tasks, as well.
Satellite internet isn’t just useful to disaster victims—it’s also used by emergency management services to conduct rescue operations. Having satellite internet can be an indispensable asset to rescue efforts in your area. Emergency teams can use a satellite connection to communicate with each other and coordinate rescue efforts in the areas that need it most.
Another way satellite internet can help rescue teams is what’s known as telehealth: when trauma teams in one area consult with experts in another area to walk through procedures, confirm diagnoses, and more. Telehealth allows a smaller medical team to gain some of the capabilities of specialized trauma teams like you might find in large hospitals.
If you’re in a situation where you need to evacuate—say, a hurricane or wildfire is approaching—mobile satellite internet can give you a way to get online without needing to worry about cable access. While you could use your smartphone in these cases, either directly or as a mobile hotspot, it isn’t always practical to do so. Some mobile plans have strict limits on how much mobile hotspot data can be used, for example.
In these circumstances, having satellite internet can give you a much-needed connection to the outside world to stay up on news or to stay in touch with family and friends in disaster-affected areas.
Once you’ve checked in with family and the latest news and made sure everything is okay, you might find yourself—well, a little bored. Sometimes a disaster, like a hurricane, comes through and knocks out power and infrastructure without causing major damage or injuries. In these cases, authorities could want you to stay put, but without internet or phone, you might quickly find yourself a little restless.
Even if cable access and cell towers are down, satellite internet can still give you access to gaming or streaming services to help keep your family entertained and as stress-free as possible given the circumstances. Plus, you’ll be able to check in with your job and even work remotely if possible.
While many might dismiss it as slow and expensive, satellite internet is highly practical for the prepper that wants to be ready for anything. Find a package that fits into your disaster plan and sleep a little easier knowing you’ll have vital internet access and the benefits it offers.