With hurricane season upon us, our alertness to extreme weather conditions is piqued. We’ve recently seen the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Ian as it hit the Americas, sweeping across Cuba and Florida. Earthquakes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters are gradually becoming more ‘normal’ and when they strike, we need to be ready for them.
Emergency preparedness and interoperable communications have become essential in the quest to ensure that local government, institutions and communities are able to cope with such catastrophic events. Without connectivity, a disaster situation is made much worse. That is why the re-establishment of communications is the top priority so that different groups of responders can effectively assess the damage, share information and establish what needs to happen to ease the situation.
To boost preparedness and to put first responders into a disaster scenario so that they can test themselves, our ST Engineering iDirect team, Darren Ludington, RVP Americas and Ken Harris, Sr. Sales Executive Americas, recently attended the biannual Central States Communications Exercise to support the Verizon Frontline Response Team. The event took place from September 13-16 in Quapaw, Oklahoma and has grown from 4 states to 23 states and 9 government agencies in 2022 highlighting the importance of emergency preparedness.
The event brings together response teams from across the US and enables them to collaborate during workshops and exercises and share knowledge and experiences that help them to react more effectively in a high-pressure disaster situation. The ultimate goal of the event is to improve emergency preparedness with interoperability connectivity between local and state agencies. It also allows an opportunity for local responses teams to experience and demo the latest communications solutions.
The exercise was attended by around 450 participants representing a local, state, federal, or non-profit response agency. These are generally technical staff that highly influence purchasing decisions and are seeking technical data on products.
About Verizon Frontline Response Team
A longstanding customer, the Verizon Frontline Disaster Response Team delivers Verizon technology to multiple interagency command posts and public safety agencies all over the United States. This technology provides mission-critical voice and data services to incident managers and first responders operating in remote areas and helps coordinate efforts. The Verizon Frontline solutions provided by the Verizon Frontline Response Team include Satellite Picocells on Trailers (SPOTs), routers, network extenders, mobile hotspots, smartphones and more.
The Verizon Team has been deployed to countless events. In 2022 alone, the team has delivered nearly 1,000 Verizon Frontline solutions to wildland firefighters in 18 states and almost 70 communities and 39 public safety agencies have received Verizon Frontline support during 2022 wildfire response efforts.
“Big Red” is a climate-controlled trailer that can become a hub for first responders. The “Big Red” tactical trailer provides 24 individual workspaces quickly after arriving. Each space has a charging station, laptop for internet access and a phone with international calling access, along with satellite and local TV for news and weather updates. It provides voice and data communications using Verizon’s 4G LTE network, via their satellite network in most instances. A large number of satellite-enabled mobile assets are strategically staged so that they can arrive anywhere in the continental U.S. within 24 hours.
Engaging with our partners
Verizon wasn’t our only partner in attendance at the Communications event. Others included IP Access International whose team was showcasing the ST Engineering iDirect X7 and iQ 200 Rackmount modems that power their emergency response vehicle. Network Innovations also demonstrated their auto-deploy Maverick terminals which feature an embedded ST Engineering iDirect modem.
The entire event was a great opportunity for regional teams to engage with big players in telecommunications, to gain advice and insight into how they can be better prepared in terms of their connectivity set-up. For example, one of the exercises pointed out to first responders that voice and data coverage is not adequate for the location in which they were operating. It encouraged the teams to go and find a satellite vendor on the site to discuss satellite solutions options available to them such as flyaway kits. It’s these important conversations that can make a huge difference on the ground in future disaster events.
Just after the event, a “Big Red” was deployed to Florida, to help the community to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and the team have worked tirelessly along with Operation BBQ Relief to help the thousands of people affected. The ST Engineering iDirect modems inside Verizon’s “Big Red” helped to reestablish cellular connectivity where infrastructure had been damaged. We are proud to support Verizon in their work to re-establish the critical connectivity required to tackle such catastrophic events and our thoughts are with those affected.