First responders train on digital radios for use during emergencies

June 5, 2009 at 9:25 pm Leave a comment

*published June 5, 2009

Master Sgt. David Landry of the Louisiana Air National Guard demonstrates technology that can be used to communicate with anyone in the country from inside this van. The demonstration was part of the Region 5 Interoperability Drill held Thursday at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Each office in the area showed off emergency equipment during the training exercise.  BY BRAD PUCKETT

Master Sgt. David Landry of the Louisiana Air National Guard demonstrates technology that can be used to communicate with anyone in the country from inside this van. The demonstration was part of the Region 5 Interoperability Drill held Thursday at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Each office in the area showed off emergency equipment during the training exercise. BY BRAD PUCKETT


TO SEE THEM CLICK HERE.
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS
First responders from the five-parish area spent this week training on 700 mHz digital radios meant to connect their various agencies during emergencies.

“In the past, we did not have the funding or political support to make a system like this happen,” said Dick Gremillion, director of the Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Most of the equipment was reportedly bought with grants that officials received after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — the response to which, like that of Hurricane Katrina years later, was hampered by incompatible communications equipment and protocols.

“Katrina was a real wakeup call for us, because we lost all communication with each other.” Gremillion said. “And last year (hurricane season) we had very few problems.”

The system is called the Louisiana Wireless Information Network, or LWIN, said Mark Cooper, director of the state emergency preparedness office.

Cooper said there are about 42,000 users in the state, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers.

“Today we have 95 percent portable (radio) coverage in south Louisiana and 89 percent coverage of the state,” Cooper said. “Now Louisiana is being looked at as a national leader in radio interoperability.”

Cooper credited the partnerships between local, state and federal agencies as a big part of the successful network.

“Radio communication is one thing we are not concerned about going into this hurricane season,” Cooper said.

State police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said he is proud that people can admit their mistakes and work together to make sure they never happen again.

“For three days after Katrina, we couldn’t talk to our officers on the ground, and that’s a travesty,” Edmonson said. “We want to make sure that never happens again.”

He said that about 2.2 million people live along the Interstate 10 corridor in Louisiana.

“We moved 1.9 million people out of harm’s way when we issued an evacuation,” Edmonson said. “Unfortunately, we had not seen that in the past.

“I think now (because of previous natural disasters) there is a greater expectation from the public. Residents tell me, ‘We know what you can do, and we want to know our homes are safe and that we will be taken care of if we are told to leave.’ ”

All agencies brought their mobile emergency communications centers to show the systems they have in place for when all other power is out in their area.

Almost all centers are equipped with satellite communications for independent radio, Internet and phone capabilities.

article link: http://bit.ly/k66e8

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