Last week was a busy week at GATR. On Saturday (9/13/2008) I participated in a conference call with the Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG) in regards to destruction from Hurricane Ike in the Galveston, Texas area. They are aware of the capabilities that the GATR inflatable antenna system provides for disaster relief. At that point crews on the ground were assessing the problem and forming needs lists for the different areas affected by the hurricane. Thursday night I sent an email back to HISG stating that GATR is still ready to deploy when needed. I also stated how I saw the GATR system fitting into a group operationally. Here is the excerpt from my email explaining how the GATR Com System can help:
The GATR Coms system is built around a lightweight, inflatable 1.8m or 2.4m diameter antenna. When deflated for transport, the GATR antenna weighs less than 17 pounds and fits in a backpack. (Very large antenna, very small transport package) The coms gear weighs a little bit more, but overall, the entire system weighs less than 70 pounds. I am going to bring the system with me on an airplane. There are no other 2.4m diameter antennas that can be carried with you on an airplane. The large antenna aperture allows for high bandwidth communications such as Voice over IP phone system and internet. The light weight makes the system easy to deploy and redeploy as needs change. The way I see the system used is to deploy it with a strategic partner with a command staging post in an area with little to no infrastructure. The comms will allow the group to perform logistics, coordinate with other groups outside the devastated area, send/receive data, and give volunteers an opportunity to check personal email and communicate with friends and family members.
HISG passed the email around to different organizations. The Chambers County Communications Director responded and said they desperately need wireless access. Chambers County was on the dirty side of the hurricane, so they had to deal with high winds, and a huge storm surge. It is estimated that 80% of the structures in the county were damaged (some minor, other catastrophic). The residents who lost their houses are staying at the American Legions Building in Anahuac. FEMA is setting up a trailer on Monday morning behind the AL building to start helping the residents of the county. We are supplying the internet access and voip phone lines to the FEMA trailer. We are also providing a wifi cloud to the RV park adjacent to the AL building. The RV park is where all of the itinerant relief workers will be staying. Mission Aviation Fellowship is sending three guys to help administer the network. These guys have been trained on the GATR system and are wizards on the network end. I am looking forward to shadowing them and learning a thing or two on the network side.
I am excited to be leading this deployment effort. Saturday (9/20/2008) was spent at our Huntsville facility getting two complete systems put together for this deployment. We had new modems that needed to get configured and brought into the network for verification before we left. Also, since I am relatively new to deploying the system, I had to set up both systems and do all the communications with the NOC to get access to the satellite. I got both systems in the network with a little work. I have a feeling I am going to learn a lot on this trip.