The ability to exchange critical information across a broad spectrum of users is the success of a response. Communicating on the North Slope of Alaska is a technical challenge. One of the most critical elements supporting any Contingency Response is telecommunications (telecom). Telecom, as an issue rears its head after almost every exercise or real world response situation. It never seems to matter what type of event the response is supporting, the location of the response or weather that is occurring. Telecom continues to come up as a 'lessons learned'. Recent technological advances (Last 15–20 Years) have resolved some older, yet lingering issues, (e.g. SATCOM, Fiber Optics, Digitization, and the Internet). That said, trying to communicate over an area covering tens-of-thousands of square miles in some of the harshest, most remote regions on the planet is at the very least - demanding. Technically, in many regions, telecom issues can be fairly easy to resolve. In the Arctic, several factors as well as weather play a major part in our ability to respond to an incident. Many areas are not accessible on a road system. Ice roads provide seasonal, temporary access. When ice roads are not available then various aircraft can be utilized. Some sites may only be accessible via specialized vehicles treading lightly on the tundra or that displace the tons of equipment over a broad area for frozen pond, lake and river crossings, minimizing environmental impact. To meet the challenge of Spill Response on the North Slope of Alaska, Alaska Clean Seas and its member companies have developed and employ a network of Very High Frequency (VHF), Ultra-High Frequency (UHF), Cellular, Microwave, and SATellite COMmunications (SATCOM) Systems. A recent Federal Communications Commission directive to reduce bandwidth usage forced the modernization of Alaska's Oil Spill Response Network. The nationwide requirement enables the same number of users to occupy half the frequency spectrum. Alaska is unique in that the entire State's Oil Spill Response Network shares the same frequencies and compatible equipment. This enables the cooperatives to seamlessly support each another. One of the obvious reasons that telecom becomes an issue is non-standardized exchange of ideas, recommendations, or commands. User unfamiliarity with telecom devices (radios, speaker microphones) also contributes to communication barriers. Use of jargon, ten codes and often cultural references can inhibit needed messages from being received as expected. This can easily be improved through Incident Command System training

This content is only available as a PDF.