Rescue Base Station - A drop-in communication platform for disaster struck regions


Natural disasters are, unfortunately, a fundamental part of living on Planet Earth. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other events will continue to test the strength of the infrastructure modern society relies on, such as communication equipment like cellular networks. To effectively cope with such scenarios we have engineered a customized base station named as The Rescue Base Station (RBS); a drop-in, solar power compatible, open-source GSM communication system for scenarios where a large-scale calamity disrupts traditional modes of communication.

The system operates using asynchronously connected autonomous nodes and gathers useful information from users, eventually synchronizing this data across the network using distributed network protocols. It connects people through conventional GSM services allowing calls, SMS and smart phone features when available. The networks also provides a series of services for use during a disaster, such as intelligent call routing, attribute based search on different characteristics (name, occupation and blood group), voice-mail services, SMS broadcast alerts, and emergency short-codes, through which a victim can contact available doctors, fire fighters, police and rescue workers.

Read the ACM-Dev paper for more details:

Ghaznavi, I., Heimerl, K., Muneer, U., Hamid, A., Ali, K., Parikh, T. & Saif, U. (2014, Dec). Rescue Base Station. In Proceedings of the 5th International conference on Computing for development (ACM DEV '14). ACM, San Jose, SJ, USA.


System Overview

RBS consists of numerous services, some in-network and some user-facing, supporting user needs in the disaster relief context. These include the registration of users on our network(as connectivity to existing cellular networks may be unavailable), eventual consistency (to provide consistent information to users and relief workers), dynamic network support(to cope with the changing network traffic), intelligent call routing and attribute-based search (to allow users to find and connect with each other based on our consistent data model), emergency voice-mail messages (to effectively and appropriately channelize the rescue teams), network short codes (to contact relief workers), and message alerts (supporting those workers).


RBS can help in timely restoration of communication services which improve coordination, boost up rehabilitation activities, and considerably reduce the number of fatalities. Some of its main features are as follows:

  • 2.5G cellular services:

    It offers 2.5G cellular services, which enables Call/SMS and limited local GPRS connectivity.

  • Intelligent call Routing:

    It help connects people through calls (conventionally) or otherwise it intelligently routes calls with respect to connectivity rules e.g. call callee's most recent caller, call someone so shares callee's occupation or location etc.

  • Attribute Based Search:

    It allows attribute based search through SMS. A user can search for the contact details on attributes like name, occupation and blood group e.g. search blood o+ or search name ibrahim

  • Supports Eventual Consistency:

    It can synchronize registration and call record data across disconnected RBS(es)

  • Emergency Voice-Mail Service

    A user can voice record his/her complaint by calling at Ext# 1122. All the recorded messages are available to the rescue teams

  • Emergency short-codes

    It allows callers to connect to rescue workers by directly dialing short codes. The dial codes serially calls a list of rescue workers belonging to a specific service group e.g. Ext# 7777 for Doctors, Ext#7700 for police, Ext#7722 for fire fighters etc.

  • Emergency Message Alerts:

    It allows Emergency SMS broadcast to the registered users within the range of an RBS.

  • Scalability:

    It allows dynamic addition and removal of new RBS nodes to and from the RBS network.

RBS System can help in disaster response activities. It enables a user/rescue worker to search for a doctor, blood donor, a law enforcer or a missing relative through an SMS service, or can connect with apool of rescue teams (doctors, FireFighters etc.) via emergency short-codes. Users can get information about their relatives via intelligent call routing. Usage of these services can be instrumental to minimize the loss of human life and property.


Future Plan

We are actively collaborating with TIER and Endaga to build a commercial version of the Rescue Base Station.


Git Repository

RBS source code



[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

This work is funded by the Google faculty research award

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