GATR Deployment: Day 6 (9/26/2008)

This morning we woke up and arranged the firehouse for the FEMA folks again.  They sent a crew of five people to get people registered online and another two to get people signed up for blue roofs (big tarps for temporary roofing.  The system was working great.  At 10:20 I got a call from Suzanne Novak asking if we could get another system over to Oak Island quickly. They had a group of seven FEMA folks trying to get people registered and their standard issue Verizon aircards were not working since the cell coverage was non-existent.  Phil and I jumped to action, we deflated the 1.8m antenna, packed up a wifi system, and hopped in the truck.  Oak Island was about a 25 minute drive from Smith Point.  We arrived at the Oak Island Baptist Church, location of FEMA and food distribution, at 11:20.  Phil wanted experience setting up the antenna by himself, so he asked me to pretend to be an indigenous helper in a foreign country.  Phil had the antenna set up and on the satellite at 12:15.  Here is where we deployed at Oak Island.







Then we ran into our problem.  The wireless access point we grabbed required a username and password.  I forgot them both and the sheet they were on was back in Smith Point, so we reset the wireless.  We had to directly connect the laptop into the modem to look up the username and password for the reset Linksys – of course its “admin”, “admin”.  We set the box back up, logged into the Linksys and set up the static IP.  For some reason, the modem was not DHCP enabled.  We tried to browse the web, and it still didn’t work.  The Linksys required a valid DNS.  Neither Phil nor I could remember one.  With the extremely weak cell signal I had, I texted about five friends back home asking for a valid DNS.  Messages with,, came back eventually. Once we set that we were in.  I can tell you I will always remember these three DNS numbers.  So, by 1PM the GATR 1.8m wireless system was operational.  The FEMA people used the signal to register about seven people. 


Here are some pictures from Oak Island.  The inside of the church was destroyed, but the Spirit was alive outside.  Check out the mud and mold on the floor of the church.  The surge brought in the sludge and it requires the firemen to come in with hoses and blast the mud out of the house. 




Here are some other pictures from the point in Oak Island.  Many of the houses are completely gone – only concrete slabs and pilings.  The community was a mix of retired folks, Vietnamese boat workers, and Hispanics.  Oak Island was the hardest hit area in Chambers County.






Back at Smith Point, Caleb was operating the 2.4m GATR system.  Smith Point had a steady stream of people all day.  Many of the people who evacuated were returning home and coming through the firehouse/community center to register with FEMA.  The 2.4m GATR system worked perfectly.  Caleb had a busy day helping unload ice and making a run with the fire department.  (Caleb is a volunteer fireman in Moscow, Idaho.)


We decided to spend the night in Oak Island, so I went back to Smith Point to help Caleb pack the system up.  The community was sad to see us leave.  Lois wanted my Auburn chair.  I was going to give it to her, but she insisted that we make a fair trade, so she brought me a Texas chair that she won in a fishing contest last year.  The president of the firehouse, Fred Anderson and his wife Jennifer(?), thanked us over and over again.  I really enjoyed the Community of Smith Point.  There are some very dedicated leaders in that community.  As a result of the way the community operated out of the firehouse, many of the Hispanics asked if they could help as volunteers with the firehouse in the future.  They are an example of neighbor helping neighbor in a time of crisis – where everyone was treated equal independent of  socioeconomic background, age, citizenship status, occupation, native language, etc.  Smith Point is a great community, and I am glad I had the opportunity to serve there.



Tomorrow we pack up and head to GATR headquarters in Huntsville, AL.



Filed under GATR, Uncategorized

2 responses to “GATR Deployment: Day 6 (9/26/2008)

  1. jdinsmore04

    Like a said in my previous comment, very cool stuff Larry. It must be especially rewarding to combine your professional life with your personal desire to help others.
    I’m sure you have a lot of thoughts on your experience. What was the attitude of the locals with regards to long term residence? Do they have a passion to continue to live there and rebuild better and stronger? Do they have fear for the future that it could happen again? I just wonder at what point you say enough is enough. I guess that could be said about many places in our country and the world.
    Hope you are settling back in at home. I’m sure the family is glad to have you back. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  2. sigmugi

    James, the deployment was good for me personally, good for GATR, and good for the Chambers County, TX community. I am very thankful that I work for a company that believes in giving resources to a problem because its the right thing to do. Other than the missional elements that I really enjoy, I am learning about networks and internet protocol. This is an area I have ignored my whole life, now its part of my job to know it. As for the benefits to GATR, we are still learning how best to deploy the technology. Field testing in actual disaster areas is a huge benefit. Plus we were able to put together a wireless internet and VOIP phone system. The benefits to the community are evident in my posts. FEMA was not going to be able to go into these areas because the cell coverage was bad and they need an online connection to get people registered. Our antenna and network enabled FEMA to come in and help these communities.

    Your question about the residents desire to rebuild or move on is interesting. I had a conversation with the wife of the president of the firehouse in Smith Point. Their house was destroyed and they are having to stay at the firehouse and with friends until they get a trailor while they rebuild. She said her husband was really considering packing up and moving on, but once they talked about it, they felt too connected to the community to leave. The community is majority hispanic, and the leaders of the firehouse/community center really do a lot to care for them. She said she could never leave. I thought that is what leadership and living for something greater than yourself is all about. Thanks for reading and commenting on my adventure!

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