Over the past three decades, Europe has seen a sixty percent increase in extreme weather events. The U.S. National Climate Assessment, notes that the global, long-term warming trend is expected to continue, and that this will create more record-setting extremes.  This ‘new normal’ feels anything but normal. Shifts in weather patterns have led to more intense heat waves, droughts, and wildfires; increasingly severe storms, flooding, and hurricanes; and more severe winter storms.

Keeping citizens safe and secure in any circumstance can be a formidable task, but without the ability to communicate, people’s lives are put at even greater risk, especially when emergency services cannot coordinate effectively.  In 2018 Northern California was ravaged by sudden, wind-fueled wildfires that developed overnight and took the lives of 25 residents. Joseph Solis, former emergency dispatcher and police officer noted that, “People didn’t die from the smoke. People didn’t die from the fire. People died because they didn’t know something was coming.”  Communication is critical immediately before, during and after a crisis, and enabling emergency response teams to coordinate effectively and share critical data has become a life and death situation.

Many cities and first responders are looking for new technologies to assist with communications and streamline coordination and planning efforts across various first responder units, government agencies, police, and the public.  According to ABI Research, city governments worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of making their cities able to withstand or recover quickly from a range of predictable and unpredictable disasters and catastrophes. This has driven global public spending on urban resilience projects from US$97 billion in 2019 to US$335 billion in 2024. In fact, a new role has been created. Many cities have already appointed Chief Resilience Officers to oversee these efforts.

When communication is critical, look to 5G network slicing.
While there are many factors that go into preparedness efforts, 5G will play a crucial role in meeting the growing needs of crisis communications. Proactive preparation, timely information distribution, and improving the efficiency and coordination of first responders’ actions are some of the ways 5G will help.

A key component of 5G is network slicing. Network slicing will allow providers to “slice up” their 5G networks to meet the different requirements of different services. Today, every device and service receive the same best-effort when it comes to wireless connectivity. But many services have different needs – requiring certain levels of capacity, latency, security, duration, reliability, power consumption and geographic coverage.  5G Network slices will create, in effect, specialized, individual networks that can be optimized for many situations – but emergency communications are some of the most critical.

5G will play an important role in emergency response – providing assured connectivity and a guaranteed level of service.
The network-slicing feature of 5G will enable network operators to dynamically adapt the transmission speed, capacity and latency of the network to the different types of information transmitted and received by first responder teams. For instance, a firefighter might need a dedicated low latency slice for mission critical push to talk communications (MCPTT), while a Hazmat team might need a Massive IOT (mIOT) slice to transmit the readings of the connected gas meters they carry with them.

First responders also now commonly wear video recording equipment, such as bodycams or helmet-cams, and are starting to carry wearable health sensors to track body temperature, heart rate, motion, etc. During a flood event, for example, real-time data from weather maps, satellites, radar, weather stations, and social media will be critical as well. Transmitting, correlating and analyzing all this data reliably, in real-time, could require the need for the provisioning of additional slices – like eMBB for video, and mIOT for health data. In other words, multiple 5G slices for information collection and distribution can be established, orchestrated and managed – based on what needs to be communicated.

It is the inherent ability to partition 5G networks into slices that will enable emergency services to contend with the unique service requirements necessary to address the world’s growing level of severe weather events. That, paired with technological advancements in machine learning and AI needed to correlate and analyze massive amounts of data that span vast digital networks, will help ensure the required safety and resiliency for citizens, first responders and critical infrastructure.

Managing the Complexity
Once these slices are established – managing all this network complexity comes with its own challenges.  At TEOCO, we believe there is a growing need for dedicated Service Assurance platforms, capable of overseeing and analyzing every event within its specific context, while providing enhanced monitoring capabilities for each slice. This can, in turn, be used to trigger automated responses and workflows to proactively resolve specific issues within individual network slices – and the services they are associated with.  Over time, as 5G continues to mature and evolve and new services are enabled, the number of slices will begin to grow exponentially.  Having the right service assurance platform in place to manage it all will be critical.

At this year’s TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World, we will be participating in a catalyst called 5G Riders on the Storm, where TEOCO and others, including champions such as Telecom Italia, Telecom Austria Group, Orange, Telenor and KDDI, will be showcasing how 5G network slices can be managed in an extreme weather event.  In this catalyst we show how weather-related urgent communication needs will impact the network – both at a business level and at the slice management and orchestration level.  The demonstration will also showcase how agile, real time dynamic communication services and network slice life cycle management can be assisted by AI to deliver a service-assured Network-as-a-Service across multiple industry verticals.