DHS, Navy and MCI deploy mobile command posts to Gulf Coast

Federal agencies and telecommunications suppliers continue to deploy mobile communications vans to the battered Gulf Coast to fill in gaps in existing commercial, federal and public safety systems destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The Health and Human Services Department has deployed its mobile command post equipped with satellite communications systems and radios capable of communicating with public safety radio systems to Baton Rouge, La., an HHS spokesman said.

A Navy spokesman said the four ship USS Iwo Jima Amphioxus Ready Group, which sailed for the Gulf Coast from Norfolk, Va. yesterday, was also carrying mobile disaster response communications vans to be used ashore.

Marlin Forbes, vice president for defense and international markets for MCI, said his company has deployed two of its “Big Blue” communications vans packed with satellite communications gear to Baton Rouge and another to New Orleans.

Forbes said MCI is equipping another five vans – which are either 40 foot or 53 foot bus-type vehicles – and expects them to have them ready for deployment to the Gulf Coast by Saturday.

To help plug gaps in public safety radio communication systems knocked out by Katrina, Motorola said it has delivered to the Louisiana State Police a radio-packed trailer, which will serve as the base station for an emergency 700 MHz communication system.

Motorola has delivered another trailer to Baton Rouge to provide first responders in that city with a 900 MHz emergency radio system and will provide a similar trailer to the Louisiana National Guard.

Motorola added it has also shipped 2,500 pieces of emergency communications equipment to the Gulf Coast including police radios, batteries and battery chargers.

The MCI vans are being used to provide communications for disaster response teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies operating in the Gulf Coast area, Forbes said.

These vans will provide solid satellite communications links an area where terrestrial fiber optic communications links were cut in the hurricane. Forbes said there are a “significant” number of fiber cuts in the Gulf Coast area. MCI has also been processing a large number of requests for emergency circuits by federal agencies into Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The devastation caused by Katrina outdistances anything he has ever experienced, Forbes said. “We’ve responded to ten hurricanes, and the devastation from this one is the worst I have ever seen,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

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