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Abstract: In this introductory paper, a discussion of natural threats and recent history will show the global extent of disasters, and introduce some problems and issues. A set of temporal phases for describing a disaster scenario are prediction, detection, warning, location, and response/mitigation. Communications aspects of each phase are identified. Three clear roles for satellite systems are noted and relevant papers from this issue are listed by role. Communications interoperability, a major obstacle presenting both technical and institutional challenges, will be discussed. We will then illustrate an overall systems response to the problems, involving two way connectivity with a central disaster database, maintained by a disaster management center. High Data rate (wideband) communications in the disaster area as well as to a remote connection to the center and Internet are needed capabilities. These concepts and responsive systems are described or implied in the papers of this issue and the discussion in this paper places these papers in an overall context.