When disaster takes out the phone and internet connections, military and local groups help make the link ~DVIDS

Posted on March 31, 2014 By

Since Hurricane Katrina, so much has changed in our nation’s response to disaster, not only with our own collective cultural mindset, but particularly with our Federal response to disaster. FEMA is much improved, streamlined and focused. However it is our US National Guard/Military Logistics who have stepped up and into the scene, which is the subject of today’s post. For example, here is a Youtube video of Washington National Guard, responded in Oso, Wa.

One of the most important things with disasters is communications, not only between first responders, but also cellphone coverage across effected areas. I remember when hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck 2 weeks apart, there were no cell towers in South Louisiana or the MS Gulf Coast. There was virtually no electrical infrastructure in Louisiana period. We had some landlines going out of New Orleans and along the MS Coast, but otherwise nothing. Baton Rouge, LA had electrical power, but the cellphone situation was spotty at best. ~Bruce Biles

VALDEZ, Alaska – The city of Valdez participated in Alaska Shield 2014, a disaster exercise hosted by State of Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management with federal, state, local community, and Non-Government Organization participation. The exercise started with an aftershock that put the city into a communication blackout – no phones or internet connections. Local officials worked with amateur radio operators to help re-gain communication with the outside world.

“We are providing amateur radio support for Alaska Shield 2014,” said Robert Rountree, president of the amateur radio club. “We have an amateur radio group here in town that provides emergency communications.” Rountree said that the group’s purpose is to respond to emergencies just like those in the exercise scenario.

Amateur radio communication allows local citizens to ask for emergency aid if needed. Once a message is received by the Emergency Operation Center, the group works closely with Joint Task Force Alaska to re-establish communication across the affected regions.

To aid the city, Joint Task Force Alaska, mobilized the Alaska Land Mobile Radio (ALMR) transportable system that was able to reestablish phone communications.

The Alaska Land Mobile Radio Transportable system is set up by North Slope Telecom Inc. and Bering Straits Information Technology personnel, in direct response to a communication black out during Alaska Shield 14 here, March 28, 2014. Alaska Shield 14 is an exercise that involves state, federal, military, and local agencies, designed to test the response and coordination of a disaster modeled after the 1964 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated much of South Central Alaska including the city of Valdez. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. True Thao)

The Alaska Land Mobile Radio Transportable system is set up by North Slope Telecom Inc. and Bering Straits Information Technology personnel, in direct response to a communication black out during Alaska Shield 14 here, March 28, 2014. Alaska Shield 14 is an exercise that involves state, federal, military, and local agencies, designed to test the response and coordination of a disaster modeled after the 1964 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated much of South Central Alaska including the city of Valdez. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. True Thao) Click to enlarge.

“Our mission here is to help this emergency operation center do its communications,” said Senior Master Sgt. Charles Rydmark, the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the 128th ACS team.

Using the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) systems allows the 128th ACS to cross-patch radios, according to Rydmark, enabling communication between the local law enforcement and the military. This type of equipment carries and enhances communication networks where it may be limited or where there is none.

“We’ve got to that day and age where everything is digital. And we can bring that communication to anywhere in the world no matter what,” said Rydmark. “That’s our mission.”

Working together, these military and civilian capabilities will help local authorities establish vital communications links to enable successful response, recovery, and ongoing incident management operations. Read more.

Jason Kelly, a systems technician with Bering Straits Information Technologies, works on a satellite while setting up the Alaska Land Mobile Radio Transportable during Alaska Shield 14, March 28, 2014. Alaska Shield 14 is an exercise that involves state, federal, military, and local agencies, designed to test the response and coordination of a disaster modeled after the 1964 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated much of South Central Alaska including the city of Valdez. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. True Thao)  Click to enlarge

Jason Kelly, a systems technician with Bering Straits Information Technologies, works on a satellite while setting up the Alaska Land Mobile Radio Transportable during Alaska Shield 14, March 28, 2014. Alaska Shield 14 is an exercise that involves state, federal, military, and local agencies, designed to test the response and coordination of a disaster modeled after the 1964 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated much of South Central Alaska including the city of Valdez. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. True Thao)
Click to enlarge

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