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Emergency Communication Stations in the Russian Far East

A Unique Solution for Saving Lives on the R504 Kolyma Highway

Emergency Communication Stations (ECS) are a unique project with large social contribution to the Magadan Region. They have been developed and implemented by the ARBUZ company with the support from the regional government.

Climate conditions in the Russian Far East and Far North are quite severe. Due to the remoteness of settlements and communication infrastructure, many roads in these regions have no stable mobile network coverage. Furthermore, long stretches of these roads completely lack any roadside service facilities (warm parking lots, motels, gas stations). For this reason, the issues of maintaining road safety and providing timely assistance to people in emergencies are especially acute during periods of extreme temperature fluctuations, heavy rainfall, and temperatures drop, that go as low as -60°C in winter. 

Since 2016, more than 120 people have died on the R504 Kolyma highway (including victims of car accidents) without being able to receive timely help due to the absence of a integrated system for alerting emergency services on remote sections of the region's roads.

The same year marked the launch of a project to develop emergency stations and select system components capable of reliably operating in Magadan Region's extreme weather conditions. Hevel Group's Scientific and Technical Center has been involved in the development of this project through testing Hevel's PV-modules and determining their adaptability to weather conditions and technical requirements of this unique project. Hevel's heterojunction PV-modules have successfully passed all of the necessary tests and can efficiently operate in a wide range of ambient temperatures, including extreme cold ones. The special arctic design of the modules allows them to reliably operate at temperatures as low as -60°C. 
 In August 2017, a completed emergency communication station was launched at the 311th kilometer of the Kolyma federal highway.

An emergency communication station is a mobile installation that consists of a 20-foot-long telecommunications container with Hevel heterojunction PV-modules mounted on the rooftop. 
The stations provide mobile communications coverage within a range of 200 meters. The stations are equipped with panic buttons for contacting Unified Duty and Dispatch Service rescue teams by calling 112. The stations are outfitted with heat rooms which can be opened remotely by the Ministry of Emergency Situations employees so that those in need can warm up and have some hot tea. The rooms also have necessary medical supplies, warm clothes, dry rations, water, and additional buttons for contacting the on-duty Ministry officer, as well as video surveillance for monitoring the medical condition of people in distress while they wait for rescuers to arrive. The emergency stations are designed to accommodate those waiting for help for up to 12 hours.

838 km

"The majority of the power used by the emergency communication stations comes from PV-modules. This was the best decision for Kolyma—a region with high insolation. The modules are simple to install and do not require a pile foundation. This is important, given the difficult digging conditions in permafrost zones. Thanks to PV modules and electrochemical generators, the stations can operate completely autonomously throughout the year. Along with energy storage units and high-capacity batteries, these three components allow us to provide a steadypower supply far away from power lines," notes Kirill Ettenko, creator of the project, official Hevel dealer in the Far East, General Director of ARBUZ LLC.

To date, ten stations have been set up in the Magadan Region along the R504 Kolyma federal highway which has a length of 838 km. The stations are located no further than 50 km from each other or from towns along the highway. Plans are also underway to install ECSs along sections of other roads of intermunicipal importance: Palatka-Kulu-Neksikan (474 km long), Gerba-Omsukchan (257 km), and Magadan-Balagannoye-Talon (154 km). The highways form a network of surfaced public roads that cross the Magadan Region and have a total length of over 2,500 km.
In their two years of operation, the emergency stations have helped save 80 lives. The stations are used to make around 300 calls every day.

For instance, in February 2020, an emergency communication station was used by a tourist from Japan who had suffered severe freezing while riding a bicycle to Yakutsk.  While waiting for rescuers, he managed to turn on the heat system and make himself some soup. There have been many similar cases. The emergency communication stations have saved numerous people who have been in car accidents or whose car has broken down in the middle of the road. The stations have also helped truck drivers and mining company employees who have stopped by to call home.
Such solutions capable of saving people's lives and providing assistance in emergencies are extremely important for northern regions and highways that extend far from settlements. Chukotka, Kamchatka, Transbaikal, Krasnoyarsk Krai, and a number of Northern European countries have already expressed their interest in the project.

According to Kirill Ettenko, General Director of ARBUZ LLC, the ECSs now make it possible to monitor road traffic through video surveillance of traffic flow and transmit the data to a server. Stations equipped with high-quality cameras and set up at high vantage points will be able to contribute to efforts by forestry agencies to prevent large-scale fires. The stations can also help reduce the cost of firefighting activities as aircraft will be no longer required to locate fires. The hybrid technology can be utilized by the Ministry of Emergency Situations when setting up mobile flood monitoring stations. Meteorological services can use the stations to install sensors that would provide more accurate weather forecasts. 

"The stations can also be beneficial in the fields of passenger and freight transportation. For example, you can use the stations to monitor drivers' compliance with sleep and rest schedules. Meanwhile, industrial enterprises will be able to ensure the safety of their employees and suppliers traversing ice roads. Since the stations are mobile, they can be moved from one location to another. Using the technology we've developed, it's possible to 'power' remote road construction camps, frost and avalanche detection points, installations for monitoring the ice conditions, as well as radio and mobile communication stations," notes Kirill Ettenko.