Internet DRAFT - draft-folts-ieprep-requirements


Internet Engineering Task Force                               Hal Folts
INTERNET DRAFT                           National Communications System
Expires November 15, 2000                                   May 15,2002

Requirements for Emergency Telecommunication Capabilities in the 


Status of This Memo 

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Copyright (c) Internet Society 2001.  All rights reserved.  
Reproduction or translation of the complete documents, but not of 
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Abstract: Priority telecommunication capabilities are required to 
support critical emergency communications through the public 
telecommunications infrastructure to support disaster recovery 
operations for saving lives and restoring community infrastructure. 
Many important issues are identified that are essential to ensuring 
effective emergency telecommunications capabilities are established in 
Internet-based infrastructures. The term "communication session" is used 
instead of "call" so that all modes of communication can be considered 
collectively; emergency telecommunication capabilities are not just 
limited to telephony traffic. No solutions are suggested, but the 
basic requirements are clearly identified for consideration by the 
ieprep Working Group of the IETF.

1. Introduction

Natural and man-made disasters can take place anywhere, 
anytime. These include, for example, earthquakes, floods, airplane 
crashes, and terrorist attacks. While some advance planning is 
possible for expected disaster events, most disasters happen 

Readily available telecommunication capabilities are essential for 
emergency recovery operations to quickly start saving lives and 

                     Emergency Telecommunications         November 2002

restoration of community infrastructure. A number of telecommunication 
facilities can be involved in disaster recovery operations. These 
include local mobile radio, dedicated satellite systems, transportable 
capabilities, and the public telecommunications infrastructure. Some 
of these facilities need to be deployed to the disaster site and may 
not be immediately available. The public telecommunication services, 
however, are generally at hand except in the most remote areas. The 
public capabilities include the traditional telephone network and the 
Internet, which can all be accessed via wire line, wireless, and 
various broadband facilities. Disaster recovery operations can 
significantly benefit from a variety of modes for interchange of 
critical information to organize and coordinate the emergency 
activities. Emergency voice communications have been supported today 
by a priority service through public telephone networks in some 
countries. Now, however, an evolution is taking place in traditional 
public telecommunication networks toward integrating circuit-switched 
and packet-based technologies. This promises to provide a rich menu of 
fully integrated capabilities for handling voice, message, data, and 
video traffic to greatly enhance disaster recovery operations.

Today mostly voice traffic using either VoIP or conventional telephony 
is used for emergency communications over wire line and wireless 
facilities. However, narrowband modes can also be applied, including 
instant messaging, Email, and telemedicine telemetry. In addition, 
wideband capabilities for video broadcast, conferencing, and 
telemedicine will also enhance emergency recovery operations.

During serious disaster events public networking facilities can 
experience severe stress due to damaged infrastructure and heavy 
traffic loads. As bandwidth gets severely constrained, it 
becomes difficult to establish and maintain effective communication 
sessions. It is essential that disaster recovery operations be given 
preferential use of remaining bandwidth. Authorized emergency 
communication sessions need to have priority use of available network 
resources over non-emergency traffic to quickly organize and 
coordinate saving of lives and restoration of community 

Only people authorized by the appropriate authority are permitted to 
establish priority communication sessions through public networking 
facilities for facilitating immediate life-saving disaster recovery 
operations. Those typically authorized are local police, fire, and 
medical resources as well as designated government officials from 
local, regional, and national levels who will be responsible for
various aspects of disaster recovery operations.

All emergency communication sessions will be processed as normal 
traffic along with all non-emergency traffic when sufficient network 
bandwidth and resources are available. ONLY when networks reach 
traffic saturation is there a need for giving emergency communication 
sessions preference over non-emergency communications. While this 
occurrence may never happen in the typical Internet-based environment, 
capabilities for preferential handling of emergency traffic need to be 
established in preparation for such a catastrophe.

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                      Emergency Telecommunications             May 2002
The preferential capabilities for handling authorized emergency 
traffic should be accomplished using existing applications and 
standards when possible. Establishment of new and different standards 
would be both costly and unlikely to ever be implemented. The desired 
approach is to adopt existing standards and where needed adapt
new standards with any necessary adjustments needed to support 
preferential treatment of emergency traffic during severe periods of 
congestion. The IETF needs to include consideration in the development 
of RFCs where there is potential benefit to fulfilling the 
requirements for preferential treatment of authorized emergency 
traffic through an Internet-based infrastructure.

2. Requirements

There are two areas that need to be addressed to provide the 
capabilities in an Internet-based environment to support handling of 
emergency traffic. The first is preferential processing of packet 
flows conveying emergency communications when the capacity of network 
resources becomes severely constrained. The second area is security, 
which includes authentication of authorized users originating 
emergency communication sessions and protection of emergency traffic 
from intrusion. The requirements and objectives to be considered and 
fulfilled wherever possible and practical to established effective 
capabilities for emergency communications are as follows:

   A. Preferential Treatment - The objective is to enable emergency 
      communication sessions to be processed preferentially during 
      times of severe congestion and restricted bandwidth when the 
      total traffic demand cannot be accommodated. Emergency 
      communications need to be given priority over non-emergency 
      communications under these severe conditions. When all traffic 
      can be accommodated by the network resources, no preferential 
      treatment is required.

      1) Access - Emergency communication sessions cannot be 
         established until initial access is gained to the network. 
         Today there is not a ready provision for priority access to 
         the public cellular and telephone systems. Access to the 
         Internet via direct connection can normally interleave 
         multiple sessions and therefore enable packets conveying 
         emergency communications to share entry. A means for 
         preferential access needs to be explored.

      2) Establishment - Once access has been gained, the address of 
         the destination as well as other parameters can be passed 
         to enable establishment of the communication session. Once 
         the initiating user is authenticated as being authorized to 
         establish emergency communications in the 
         telecommunications infrastructure, the established session 
         can proceed and all packets need to covey an emergency 
         identification and must receive preferential treatment over 
         non-emergency packets.

      3) Routing - In a connectionless infrastructure (Internet), 

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                      Emergency Telecommunications             May 2002
         packets are routed individually to the destination during 
         an ongoing communication session. In a circuit-switched 
         environment, once established via a single path, a 
         communications session is essentially locked into place and 
         needs no further priority processing. On the other hand, 
         the additional consideration is needed for packet networks 
         to continuing processing all packets supporting a specific 
         instance of an emergency communication from initiation to 

      4) Use of network resources - During a disaster event, the 
         telecommunication facilities can experience damage that can 
         severely limit the availability of resources to support the 
         traffic demand. When this serious condition occurs, the 
         emergency traffic needs to have precedence over non-
         emergency traffic. This may not occur often or ever, but if 
         it does, it is particularly critical that emergency traffic 
         gets preferential treatment over non-emergency traffic to 
         facilitate saving of lives and restoration of community 

      5) Completion to destination - If a communication session 
         cannot be completed in today's telecommunications 
         environment either due to no answer or busy, the 
         communication request in unsuccessful. In a single channel 
         egress, a busy or no-answer condition prevents a session 
         from reaching its destination. No-response is a dead-end, 
         but busy destinations need to be overridden. When this is a 
         packet interleave destination egress, the communication 
         should be delivered, but if it is a single point egress, a 
         priority indication needs to be provided to the destination 
         end, such as a priority "call waiting" alert.

   B. Security - Two important considerations need to be taken into 
      account for security issues for emergency communications. The 
      first is to ensure rapid authentication of authorized users and 
      then protection of emergency traffic from intrusion from outside 

      1) Authentication - `Only users authorized by the appropriate 
         national authority shall have access to the priority 
         telecommunication capabilities in the pubic 
         telecommunications infrastructure. In today's public 
         telephone networks a credit-card process is used. This 
         means entry of some 32 digits of information to complete 
         establishment of a communication session. This is 
         cumbersome and time-consuming. With future technology there 
         is a need for a more time-responsive and streamlined 
         mechanism for rapid authentication. New technology should 
         be explored to seek an effective solution to this problem.

      2) Intrusion - The overall problem of Internet security is 
         being pursued by appropriate and expert resources in the 
         IETF and elsewhere. However, the specific problem of 

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                      Emergency Telecommunications        November 2002
         emergency traffic needs to be addressed. Emergency traffic 
         needs to be protected against intrusion, spoofing, and 
         specifically, denial of service. Emergency traffic must be 
         processed without interference. If overall security 
         measures that are established do not satisfy these specific 
         requirements, additional consideration needs to be given to 
         protection specifically focused on emergency traffic. While 
         most emergency traffic for immediately organizing and 
         coordinating local recovery operations, some emergency 
         communications among certain government officials will need 
         to be protected against eavesdropping and possibly against 
         being traced to both source and destination points.

 3. Example Scenarios

Some example instances for emergency communications are described 
below. These show some different levels of emergency communication 
requirements that need to be supported.

   A. Local recovery operations - While mobile radio is the primary 
      mode of communication for police and fire brigade operations, 
      there is often a need to supplement these capabilities with 
      access to the public telecommunication networks. This is 
      particularly needed during the initial stages and immediately 
      following the disaster event. These emergency communications can 
      be accomplished through use of wireless, cellular phone or PDA, 
      access where priority service may necessary due to congestion. 
      Some mobile radio systems interface with public networks, but its
      use is often discouraged or avoided because of limited bandwidth 
      availability. Communications outside the immediate local radio 
      coverage area is often required to request additional resources 
      from other areas and to notify and coordinate operations with 
      regional (e.g. county and state) and national authorities.

   B. Medical operations - The process of saving lives and getting 
      victims to medical treatment, is greatly enhanced through the use
      of data telemetry to remotely provide victim vital signs to a 
      central medical center. In addition, treatment of victims at the 
      disaster site can be significantly accelerated through the use of
      video telemedicine transmissions to remote medical staff. These 
      vital life-saving communications must have preferential treatment
      in the public telecommunications infrastructure.

   C. Regional operations - The magnitude of the event may require 
      recovery support from resources outside of the immediate area of 
      impact. Critical information is provided for authorities to 
      proclaim a disaster crisis and activate vital support resources. 
      Regional emergency operations centers would the need immediate 
      and effective telecommunication capabilities to rapidly 
      organize and coordinate support from elsewhere regionally, 
      nationally, or internationally.

   D. National operations - The most serious disaster events can impact 
      national security of a country. Therefore, immediate action is 

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                      Emergency Telecommunications        November 2002
      required by government officials to organize and coordinate the 
      highest level of emergency support resources. In addition with a 
      serious threat to national security, actions to ensure continuity 
      of government must be initiated. These types of activities need 
      to not only have priority treatment for emergency communications 
      in the public telecommunications domain, but they also require 
      protection against eavesdropping of confidential/sensitive 
      information. In addition, locations of source and destination of 
      some critical national security traffic needs protection.

4. Conclusion

There are a number of critical issues that must be addressed by the 
IETF as outlined above. These are important ingredients to the total 
solution required for effective of an effective emergency 
telecommunication capabilities in the public telecommunication service 
infrastructure. Technical solutions are neither deliberately proposed 
nor suggested above to allow full consideration and innovation in 
seeking the effective solutions. There are many other aspects 
including the full systems, procedural, operational, policy, and 
regulatory aspects that also need to be address by other 
organizations. The IETF plays a critical role in this process to 
ensure that the technical capabilities in Internet-based 
infrastructures that support these requirements are established and 

5. Security Considerations 
See draft-ietf-ieprep-security-00.txt on emergency telecom security.

6. Acknowledgements 

Many thanks to Ian Brown and Ken Carlberg, for their comments on this 

8. Author's Address 
Hal Folts, Senior Systems Engineer 
Priority Services - Internet Team, Technology and Programs 
National Communications System 
+1 703 607-6186 

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                      Emergency Telecommunications        November 2002
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