DOD, Coast Guard deploy satcom systems to Gulf Coast

The Defense Department and Coast Guard have dispatched communications vans equipped with a wide range of satellite and land mobile communications systems to provide connectivity for commands supporting disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Courtney McCarron, a spokeswoman for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, said the lack of power in the Gulf Coast area of Louisiana has cut off most forms of communications routinely taken for granted in most communities in the United States.

She said Willis Carter, chief of communications for the Shreveport, La., fire department and a second vice president for APCO, reports that the 911 emergency service systems is down in New Orleans and that police and fire radio systems are going down, because they lack power to recharge batteries in handheld radios.

Commercial telecommunications connections are very limited in the Gulf Coast Area, said Petty Officer Third Class Larry Chambers, a spokesman for the Coast Guard command center in Alexandria, La. Commercial voice land line connections are “pretty difficult” and “cell phone connections are spotty,” Chamber said.

The Coast Guard command center in Louisiana has Internet connectivity, Chamber said, but he uses his Yahoo e-mail account rather than a Coast Guard system to communicate with the media due to the limited number of Coast Guard terminals in the center.

Lt. Judi Vasquez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Northern Command, which is managing DOD support for post-Katrina operations, said the command has deployed a van to help support Joint Task Force-Katrina headquartered at Camp Shelby, Miss.

Earlier this year, NORTHCOM commander Admiral Thomas Keating said the command can deploy to a disaster scene its “InfraLynx" communications van, which can communicate with most state and local public safety systems as well as military systems.

The InfraLynx system, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, is equipped with land mobile radios capable of communicating with state and local public safety agencies in the VHF and UHF bands and also includes satellite equipment capable of proving connections into the DOD Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network and the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.

The InfraLynx van can also support Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone calls, cellular phone calls and comes equipped with its own analog/digital switchboard.

The Coast Guard has deployed mobile communications vans to Alexandria and Mobile, Ala, said another Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Third Class Brian Leshak (cq). These vans are equipped with satellite uplinks as well as VHF radios. Leshak said. The Coast Guard is also using Iridium satellite phones for communications, Leshak added.

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