CCS had already been working with the State of Louisiana on several new projects through the State Fire Marshall’s Office when the forecast started to predict a new Hurricane forming in the Gulf of Mexico. The tropical depression quickly escalated to a tropical storm and then to Hurricane Ida in a matter of days. On August 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, LA as a Category 4 Hurricane. We have all seen the news reports of the destruction it caused from the wind damage and the flooding – at one point close to one million people were without power.
CCS was contacted the Friday morning before the storm by the State Fire Marshall’s Office and asked if we could bring some communication resources to Baton Rogue to the State’s EOC facility which was serving as one of the staging areas for the storm’s response. CCS employees quickly loaded up one of our large Zumro Air Shelters, a MERC-Lite satcom trailer, some Mutualink IWS equipment, JPS interoperability server, and several PERC kits that can be used for wireless hot spots. We arrived in Baton Rouge on Saturday morning and began prepping for the storm.
Literally hundred of First Responders started to descend on Baton Rogue from all over the country – New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, and many more. FEMA resources started to show and set up a command center in the EOC. Nearby warehouses were quickly being filled with emergency response equipment – everything from boats to generators to mobile command centers. It was amazing to see how quickly this all came together as the storm barreled down on the State.
As all the equipment and resources were delivered, the State and FEMA started assigning out areas of responsibility and Team Leaders to go out into the affected areas once the storm blew through. Many of the First Responders tried to get some rest knowing there would be a lot of long hours ahead of search and rescue work. At that point it was just a waiting game to see where the storm would hit and how much damage would be wreaked on the State,
Ida blew in early Sunday morning with sustained winds at close to 150mph just decimating anything in its path. To add to the damage and flooding it moved very slowly – around 9 mph. All of us that were staged at the EOC in Baton Rouge were fortunate because we missed the brute force of the storm – just some high winds and some heavy rain but nothing like the southern parts of the State experienced. Unfortunately with most storms of this force, most areas lost power and network connectivity including Baton Rouge. The State’s EOC had ample back up generator power, but the network connection to the building did go down. That is when CCS and FEMA sprang into action quickly deploying two satellites to help restore network service to the building. The FEMA-MERS Team out of Denton, TX and CCS out of Ft. Worth, Texas quickly had two network pipes feeding into the EOC to support wireless connectivity for the First Responders. CCS also deployed a PERC kit equipped with a Pepwave router that provided wireless connectivity into one of the main conference rooms. A special thanks to IP Access International supplying the sat network pipe and Sat-Lite Technologies for supplying the sat hardware for the MERC unit.
Over the next few days AT&T FirstNet and Verizon rolled in with their large COLTs and COWs to get the LTE service back online. The AT&T FirstNet Team brought their new Rescue 42 kit along with several other resources. On Saturday Sept. 4th they also deployed one of their aerial systems in Raceland, LA to assist in expanding the LTE coverage. Providing these First Responders the ability to communicate is so critical during this massive response effort. I appreciate Kelley Adley and the entire AT&T FirstNet’s Team support during this response – they stayed in constant communication with us throughout the event and brought in a large number of resources very quickly.
On Tuesday and Wednesday CCS relocated to Alexandria, LA to the State Fire Marshall’s Office there to set up a Mutualink IWS system to support radio interoperability, document sharing, video sharing, and resource tracking. CCS also deployed some Z2 JPS units for radio interoperability out in the field with the PERC units. This allowed the State to quickly connect different radio frequencies and channels into a single talk group to allow First Responders to communicate easily out in the field. Users without radios could dial in on their cell phones and be patched together with radio users. Robby Hill and the entire Mutualink Team did a great job pulling these resources together for the State as did Roman Kaluta and the JPS Team!
The response continues in Louisiana and all of this equipment is still in use. I worked directly with Chase Hawthorne with the State’s Fire Marshall’s Office and you will not meet a hard working man that is more committed to his State than Chase and that goes for his entire team. They were literally out in the field Sunday morning during the tail end of the storm cutting up downed trees and poles that were blocking roadways so they could get out and start searching for people in need of help. I have been out on a lot of hurricane responses since we started CCS in 2007 (Ike being the first) and I have never been as well fed as I was by the Louisiana Team during Ida! Despite everything going on, they made sure that every First Responder at the EOC and staging centers were provided 3 meals a day and I am not talking sandwiches or breakfast bars! We were served steak one night and lots of awesome Cajun food that I can not even spell.
Please continue to pray for Chase and all the First Responders out in the field still responding to this crisis.
Gary Collins – CEO