January 1, 2006
Hurricane Katrina proved to be one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. Thousands of people were killed, tens of thousands were left homeless, and damages totaled billions of dollars. The hurricane completely destroyed all communications infrastructure due to wind damage, flooding, power loss and structural failure. Despite all of this, the American Red Cross came to the aid of hurricane Katrina survivors in their largest deployment in history.
The Red Cross set up relief centers throughout the region affected by the hurricane, but because the entire communications infrastructure was destroyed, there was no way for the relief sites to communicate with each other or to regional command centers. The Red Cross needed to create a system from scratch to connect all relief sites and regional command centers. They needed it deployed in a quick and cost-effective manner. At their disposal, the Red Cross had high-power, low-band radios and satellite uplink equipment. The challenge was to bridge the two technologies to create an effective communications network.
In an effort to link and consolidate communications through numerous relief centers, the Red Cross chose Telex IP-223 Dual IP-Adaptor Panels and C-Soft, Software Based Dispatch Consoles to get the job done. High-power, low-band VHF radios were installed at 12 tower sites across the affected areas. The radios were connected to the IP-223s, which bridged the broadcasts to an IP-based network that could easily be connected directly to satellite uplink devices. The satellite broadcasts were transmitted to regional dispatch centers, where they were converted back into IP-based communications, which could then be monitored and dispatched using C-Soft. The solution allowed each relief centers to communicate with central dispatch and with each other using portable, two-way radios. As part of this effort, Telex also donated the use of two Viper MCU Portable Command Systems to the Red Cross. The MCUs were deployed at remote command locations and provide completely self-contained communications platforms.
The system is currently up and running and performing very well. The IP-223s were able to be configured and tested in a central location prior to installation, which dramatically reduced the amount of time spent on the installation in the field. The seamless integration of separate communications platforms via the Telex IP-223 is what made this life-saving communications solution a possibility.