Lack of communications systems has been identified as a critical issue holding back aid, missing persons, law enforcement, etc. in crisis areas.
FCC personnel are working throughout the weekend to coordinate these efforts with private industry, with wireless technology groups, FEMA, and state governments in Mississippi, Louisiana, etc.
COMPANIES WITH TECH ASSETS AND/OR HUMAN RESOURCES TO DONATE FOR COMMUNICATIONS AID IN KATRINA-IMPACTED AREAS SHOULD DO THE FOLLOWING
FCC Chief of Staff Dan Gonzalez (daniel dot gonzales at fcc dot gov) says
FCC needs the following information from would be tech donors BY NOON EASTERN ON SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 3.
1) identify the provider (name of your company or group)
2) identify assets you are willing to commit
3) state clearly what assets you are technologically capable of providing (IP? data? voice?)
4) what your logistical requirements are to bring that to the affected area.
5) can you bring generators? if so what size? capacity? power levels?
contacts: Michael Anderson (email@example.com) 630-466-9090, and Claudia Crowley (ccrowley at gmail dot com), 817-292-0230.
Snip from part-15.org website:
The FCC and FEMA is in a desperate need to reestablish communications in the disaster area. More specifically, the metropolitan area of New Orleans and it's surrounding areas. What can Wireless access internet service providers do to help? We can reestablish internal communications and provide connectivity to all disaster relief efforts by installing point to point, point to multipoint links, IP Web cams to assist the police and fire departments who can not be everywhere in such a large area, VoIP phones to provide voice communications to relief personnel in remote areas and many other types of normal everyday communications that most people take for granted.Link
To accomplish these goals, we will need not only the License Exempt Industry as a whole, but local communities, major companies, and all others that can provide even the slightest of assistance to our teams.
* One of the challenges the FCC faces is fact that the coordination effort involves multiple layers of bureaucracies -- also, that there has been no central point for directing available assets offered by private industry. Participants on the call included folks from Cisco, Intel, and wireless organizations.
* Another challenge: working with FEMA and local governments to ascertain whether it is more immediately effective to get old systems up and running, or create new temporary ones. Depends on tech behind communications system in question. * FCC reps on the conference call also said they may relax some regulations (power restrictions, etc) but are concerned that the effort be coordinated centrally, carefully, so that various emergency communications "efforts don't end up stepping on each other" and causing more of a tech mess.
* Quote from call participant Jim Duncan, Cisco Critical Infrastructure Insurance group:
"Operational issue number one is fuel and energy. Convoy accident happened today with fuel truck heading into one area... getting fuel and power in is critical, nothing can happen in terms of communications without that. Communications priorities will include law enforcement issues, but also missing persons -- getting refugees access to webpages to unite missing families... Cisco is working with Red Cross to help them figure out how to get backhaul connectivity to hundreds of tent cities they're setting up..."
* Some call participants also noted that any volunteers who end up being assigned in the affected area should bring sleeping bags, water, food so as not to strain resources. Hotel rooms, cars are hard to come by. Tech experts who end up coming to the area (by way of coordinated aid efforts) should be prepared to camp out.
* SBC and other companies are working to get voice and data service set up for refugees at the Houston Astrodome. One provider of digital TV service will also be applying its technology to text messaging tools, so that people there can reconnect with families.
* Jeffrey Citron, CEO of Vonage, says his company has been donating gear and just got a hospital back online with voice services. They've been trying to round up a large number of wireless VoIP phones to distribute to first responders.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.