Battery-operated radio systems aid Katrina relief efforts

The National Interagency Fire Center is sending two-way radios that can run without commercial power to areas where public safety systems have been knocked out by Hurricane Katrina.

NIFC 08/31/05 Situation Report

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The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, has sent four radio systems that can operate without commercial power to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, where public safety systems have been knocked out by Hurricane Katrina.

NIFC has also deployed Incident Management Teams to support disaster relief operations in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

While handheld radios used by police and fire agencies in New Orleans have stopped working due to weak batteries and no power to charge them, NIFC radios don’t have the same problem, said Steve Jenkins, chief of National Interagency Incident Communications Division at the center.

Because wildfires usually occur far from sources of commercial power, NIFC employs two-way radio systems that use disposable “AA” batteries stored in a clamshell housing easily snapped off the base of a radio, Jenkins said.

NIFC, staffed by personnel from the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service, has deployed four radio systems which consist of 48 radios each to Federal Emergency Management Agency teams in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, Jenkins said.

These systems include handheld radios, ground to air radios and satellite communications, all powered by batteries, Jenkins said. Because the forest fire season has wound down, NIFC has another roughly 2,000 “AA” powered radios it could supply to the Hurricane Katrina disaster or public safety personnel in the Gulf Coast, he added.

While NIFC Incident Management teams usually manage wildfires, they are also called on for disaster relief operations and have the personnel, logistics management skills and equipment, which can be used in disaster relief operations.

The center has sent Incident Management teams to Stennis Space Center, Miss., Port Allen, La.; Meridian, Miss.; Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB), Ala.; Barksdale AFB, La., and Biloxi, Miss., according to the NIFC Incident Management Situation report for Aug. 31.

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