Mobile Command Centers
Command Center Department of Corrections - Colorado:
Installed by Scott Kaufman/F.R.A.E., Inc.
Focusing on your
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WHEN DISASTER HIT, EMERGENCY WORKERS FOUND THEY COULDN’T TALK TO EACH OTHER. WITHIN DAYS, A SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY WAS OVERWHELMED WITH ORDERS. The wind slammed into the U.S. on Aug. 29, and within hours of the winds touching the coast it was obvious officials were unprepared for the storm’s violence or the resulting human suffering. The race was on to help the hurt and homeless. When that race slowed to a crawl, one cause was the inability of emergency personnel to communicate with each other. It took out a huge number of phone lines. BellSouth, the dominant local phone provider, estimated on Sept. 2 that 1.03 million of its customer lines were down in Louisiana. Cell networks were also affected; many residents found cellphones could initiate but not receive calls. The same problems hit emergency workers and in only a few days communications became a major priority.
That’s when the phones started ringing at company in Ottawa. The company’s mobile satellite-based systems deliver two-way high-speed Internet services. Most of the units are installed in vehicles, giving users access to the Internet, e-mail and Voice over IP services.
C-COM had already sold about 200 units to Americans, with customers including the states of Texas and Florida, naval colleges, various federal agencies, border patrol units, the Kennedy Space Center, the FBI, fire and emergency services, and Bookmobiles. Even the much-criticized FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had a few units. After huricane, every C-COM system in the U.S. was seconded by the federal government. “The U.S. government took all the units - even the ones in the Bookmobiles,” said Leslie Klein, C-COM president and CEO. These 200 units were not enough, however, and C-COM was overwhelmed
with orders. “We got calls asking for 30 or 40 systems. That emptied our warehouse, we had nothing left. We sold everything that wasn’t nailed down, even demo units.” Beyond emergency workers, C-COM is selling systems to surveying and construction companies. It has also sold 20 units to MCI for cellular network backup.
“We’re seeing a tremendous surge in demand. Many of the progressive states - Texas, Oregon, Florida - already had some systems in place just sitting in storage, in case something happened. Now, I think all of the other states will do this as well,” Klein said.
Lessons not learned but the belief that latest disaster will push officials to plan for disaster is optimistic. After all, the lessons of Hurricane Ivan apparently went unnoticed. In a report on the aftermath of Ivan, Cayman Islands-based Deloitte consultant Torrin Stafford identified nine lessons that should be learned from the disaster. Two of those centred on communications. Stafford wrote: “Particularly problematic was the inability to maintain communication with staff and key stakeholders, as island-wide fixed line telephone services became inoperable. This became a major issue for organizations in three aspects: firstly, in verifying the health and welfare of staff; secondarily, as they attempted to operate in crisis management mode; and thirdly, in beginning salvage and restoration activities. “The loss of international voice and data services was devastating for those organizations which designed disaster recovery strategies and information technology platforms that were reliant on hardware platforms located in the Cayman Islands.” A year later the exact same scenario played out in the southern U.S., complete with unprepared and surprised officials.
This issue of Backbone contains two advice pieces on business continuity and disaster planning. They are important reads: as writer Gail Balfour points out, one study found companies that suffer a network outage of more than five consecutive days are rarely still in business one year later.