In just the past few months, Americans have seen wildfires blaze across Colorado and Oklahoma, earthquakes shake Southern California and other emergency situations and disasters. And we’re just starting to enter hurricane season.

When these emergency situations arise, whether they are natural disasters or national security incidents, the government has to respond quickly and effectively to rescue American citizens, deliver necessary services and mitigate damage. In many cases, they’re doing so in extraordinarily chaotic environments.

These recovery efforts can involve multiple different agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Guard, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and state and local first responders. To effectively respond to disasters, the disparate government agencies involved in recovery efforts need to be able to collaborate and communicate effectively. Decision makers also need to be able to have communication with those on the ground, conducting disaster response and recovery efforts.

Unfortunately, heavy network traffic and the damage or destruction of necessary network infrastructure often leaves responders unable to communicate and further fuels the chaos on the ground. Existing networks also are limited to simple voice communication.

Video communication powered by today’s advanced Unified Communications (UC) and video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions have often been touted as a more effective and efficient way to coordinate emergency responders on the ground. And these solutions are even more accessible to responders during crisis situations thanks to the development of mobile applications that turn smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into portable, HD VTC solutions.

VTC solutions in emergency response situations can enable face-to-face communication between responders from different organizations. They can also be utilized to deliver video and imagery of the situation on the ground to decision makers and senior leaders, regardless of the distance separating them. This can expedite the decision making process and ultimately expedite the response effort.

A recent announcement by DHS further reinforces video’s ability to power communication, collaboration and data sharing during emergencies. According to an article in NextGov, DHS is looking to implement a new wireless network that will utilize public safety networks and commercial networks to enable responders to share data and video in crisis situations. The network would support:

“voice over high-speed Internet for land mobile radios…emergency broadband data and video services that are able to interact with commercial smartphones, 4G networks and possibly DHS-developed tools such as biometric devices and license plate readers.”

VTC is the future of communication and collaboration in crisis and emergency situations. By developing this new network and rolling video out to emergency personnel, DHS will effectively expedite response efforts and help save lives.