Thursday, March 22, 2012

16 Days in the Life of an ECRV4711 Deployment

Day 1 – Get a call at home is Wisconsin at 9:30am that ECRV4711 has been deployed to the Kentucky tornadoes operation – on the road in less than 30 minutes - drive 175 miles from home to pick up the ECRV at it’s home in Glenview, IL – meet up with Jill Rowan, co-ECRV operator for this DRO – drive 400 miles to Lexington, KY – arrive after 9:00pm – stop by chapter office and meet local staff still at it – busy days ahead - overnight in Lexington

Day 2 – Drive to West Liberty, KY to Morgan Central Elementary School (MCES) – see the major devastation in the center of West Liberty where it looks like the entire town has been wiped out - complete site survey and establish communications inside the school – get IP phones out and charging – all cellular communications are dead – run WAP into shelter area in gym for “Safe & Well” laptops that never get used – shelter operation looks chaotic to me but things quickly turn around when Brad Powell and Tim Vargo from West Kentucky arrive to lead the operation - take down truck at end of day and drive to motel in Morehead (25 miles)  – motel has never heard of us – luckily find rooms nearby – finally get to bed after 11:00pm

Day 3 – wake up to 4” to 6” fresh wet snow – back to MCES and set up communications – Verizon cell network now up so we retrieve the IP phones and issue cell phones – much better – finally get staff cards but they don’t work - go to new motel and meet my new roommate – Leroy Harris, an ERV driver from west Kentucky – offers to buy me earplugs – an ominous start – Leroy turns out to be a wonderful roommate and we pledge to share a room together on a future operation if our paths cross

Day 4 – A frosty start to the morning – back to MCES and set up communications only to be told mid-morning that the shelter is relocating that afternoon to the Assembly of Faith Church (AoFC) – discover that multi-function printer we had ordered for fax capability was delivered to Louisville instead of West Liberty – tear down all communications at MCES and drive to AoFC – re-establish communications using a large RV-based mobile operation center from RJ Corman as the Ops Center – order more laptops and phones – it’s ramping up – start work on TIMS

Day 5 – Communications set up at AoFC then I spent the large part of the day looking for a new Ops Center – the RV is quickly outgrowing it’s utility – and also a client services center with local RC volunteer, Jim Rummage – order more equipment for new Ops Center – find empty former bookstore in a mall in Morehead – should do the job – lots of space, lots of light and power, and a good site for the ECRV as long as we don’t raise the mast

Day 6 – Move to the new Ops Center in Morehead and establish communications – tables and chairs finally arrive later in the morning – new equipment for Ops Center arrives and includes a Ruckus, a high-speed wifi device – we have problems getting it working until we discover that the Ruckus doesn’t play well with LDL’s (older laptops) – convert to newer laptops and all is well – more staff continue to arrive that need equipment – we now have Ops Management, Disaster Assessment, Mass Care, Government Liaison, Logistics, and Staff Services followed shortly by Health Services, Disaster Mental Health, Client Services, and Community Relations – receive word that ECRV has to move tomorrow to set up a Client Services Center (CSC) at a church east of West Liberty – more equipment ordered to set up a simplified wifi network

Day 7 – Set up communications at Morehead waiting for final word on the CSC at church – two new DST volunteers, Greg and Diane Ambrose, arrive from Louisville with a VSAT – get communications established through VSAT for the Ops Center and the ECRV is now free to go to the CSC – run the VSAT cable in through the vent in the Ladies toilet which had become non-operational – find out that the CSC is now going to be at the MCES where the shelter was when we first arrived – get laundry done – clean fresh clothes – life is good

Day 8 – Jill and Diane take ECRV to MCES and set up the CSC using a second Ruckus – have trouble most of the day with wifi disconnects – no problems at Ops Center – Greg and Diane had been certified as ECRV operators but had never had the chance to work on an actual DRO – they’re in heaven

Day 9 – Go to MCES with Greg to set up communications for CSC – wifi problem still present so we hard wire all laptops to the switch, a reminder of DRO’s past – all is well … after we disable “radio” on all the laptops

Day 10 – Settle in to supporting both locations with half of the team going to MCES with the ECRV for the CSC and the other half remaining at the Ops Center for day-to-day support - fairly quiet day at both locations – major effort was unloading a large box truck full of donated supplies by hand

Day 11 – DRO is into a rhythm as connectivity at both locations is ticking along and it’s only the infrequent “help desk” type inquiries to keep us busy

Day 12 – Hear we have to be out of MCES in two days so they can get it ready to restart school – begin limited testing to see where we might establish another CSC

Day 13 – The VSAT is very close to a dumpster that needs emptying – we came in very early (6:30am) and tilt the dish to ensure it won’t get accidentally bumped – dump truck never arrives – about 7:30am Greg goes and looks at dumpster to discover it’s already been emptied – when, we don’t know – Mike Brown, a new DST volunteer on his first DST DRO but with many DRO’s as Mental Health, arrives from Louisville to help with possible quick relocation of CSC overnight – at end of day we tear down the CSC at MCES and get all equipment back to Morehead Ops Center – set up laptops for Client Services at Ops Center

Day 14 – Client Services decide to do outreach from Morehead Ops Center – no need for a new CSC and no need for the ECRV any longer – word is it may have to go to Austin for an overhaul – 4711 is one of the few, if any, remaining trucks with a Garmin StreetPilot III – it will be replaced by a “puck” – we hoped to do a VSAT realignment and cross-polarization test but couldn’t connect with support

Day 15 – Turn ECRV over to Greg and Diane for trip to Austin and we take rental car to Louisville for out-processing

Day 16 – Drive back to Glenview, IL with two volunteers from Greater Chicago then short 3 hour drive home to Wisconsin

Conclusion: A very successful and rewarding deployment. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

ECRV4711 Goes to Kentucky

Early Saturday morning I got the call that they were deploying the Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) 4711 to assist in the relief efforts for the major tornado outbreak that occurred through southern Indiana and Kentucky. Since I was the "on-call" operator I was on the road to Chicago at 9:30am. By 1:00pm we had the ECRV rolling to Lexington and we arrived late that evening. The next morning we drove to one of the hardest hit communities in Kentucky, West Liberty, and set up the ECRV to provide communications to the Command Center and shelter at Morgan County Elementary School. The following are just a few photos. I'll post more later.

Monday morning we woke up to find a “fresh”
dusting of snow over everything

The snow certainly made a pretty drive to the shelter
but added insult to injury to the victims of the tornado.

Just a sample of the destruction in West Liberty.
It was the worst I've seen and looked like the tornado
was 100+ yards wide as it moved right over the
center of the town.

My co-driver Jill Rowan.
She is seated on one of the 'small' chairs at one of the 'small'
tables at the Command Center. We used the Head Start room
because it allowed easy access to the ECRV to run a
Wireless Access Point (WAP) into the office.

Today we moved the shelter to the Assembly of Faith Church,
just north of West Liberty.

We also have a new Command Center in a Mobile
Operations Center provided to the effort by the
R. J. Corman Railroad Group - the big red RV.

The ECRV is providing connectivity to the
Red Cross network for the staff inside the
Command Center - I now have "vehicle envy"!!