For 13 years our sole focus has been to provide our customers solutions that allow them to communicate and function regardless of their physical location or the local conditions. The majority of our customers are First Responders that put themselves at risk every day just by putting on their work uniform. Hurricane Ike in 2008 was the first large scale disaster that CCS was involved in supporting one of our customers (Union Pacific Railroad) in Spring, Texas with a MERC satcom trailer. A lot of the railroad tracks had been damaged by the flooding and debris and they sent teams in to help repair the tracks and get the trains running again. We provided their team internet access, land mobile radios, and dial tone so they could coordinate their relief efforts. Since Ike we have been engaged in every major disaster in the US including the wild fire responses, flood events, and most recently Hurricane Harvey and Sandy.
One of the things that make the COVID-19 so challenging and unique for First Responders is the sheer scale of the crisis and how it is affecting not just all of North America, but the world. In most situations like a Hurricane or a wild fire response, only a portion of the country is affected. If the local resources are strained during these responses, outside help can be brought in from FEMA, National Guard units, volunteer agencies,etc.. that can quickly help to fill that void. I think our country does a great job of that, supporting each other in times of crisis. As we are all seeing unfold on the news every day during this epidemic, resources are stretched incredibly thin. You can see news stories and read articles that state that this type of disaster has been predicted and it was just a question of “when, not if” this happened, but the coordination it would take to simulate a realistic response to something like this would be very challenging to pull off.
I can tell you from first hand experience that many of our First Responders drill every month practicing responding to all different types of disasters. Here in Texas three customers that are a great example of staying ready by simulating disaster response situations are Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas DPS, and the Texas National Guard. All three of these customers are constantly deploying their equipment, making sure it is current and working properly, and making sure their staff is trained on its operations. Hurricane Harvey was a great example of their readiness because between these three groups they had over 30 mobile Command Centers deployed all over South Texas that were communicating with the State’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC) in Austin. The flip side of these are the customers that do not deploy their equipment or test it until an incident actually happens and they are normally the ones that have problems (software updates not done, firmware updates required, satellites will not acquire, etc..)
The other lesson learned from this disaster and past ones is that if you do not have the equipment you need for the response on hand when the disaster hits it is too late. As soon as this virus hit the US we started getting calls from existing customers and new customers wanting to rent or buy equipment. We had a little bit of inventory on hand to meet some of this needs, but not nearly enough. Oncor Energy one of our local customers needed some small trailers to use as security and health check points to set up outside their buildings. We were able to provide them some, but not nearly in the quantity they needed. Unfortunately the communication equipment that we provide to First Responders can be expensive and most companies can not afford to keep a huge amount of inventory on hand because it is cost prohibitive. We blew through our inventory of sat gear, trailers, and Zumro Air Shelters in the first week. Hopefully as Congress rolls out funding to combat this epidemic they will provide funds to purchase equipment that may be needed for the next crisis.
As of March 20th, 2020 CCS is open and at 90% capacity. We have had a few workers have to miss time to tend to children that are out of school. I will continue to update all of our social media links to keep our customers updated on any changes.