The Rescue 21 Disaster Recovery System (DRS), a self-sufficient mobile system designed to temporarily restore full Rescue 21 communications in the event regular communications are lost, can now be deployed throughout the continental United States with as little as 24 hours notice. This is an important capability as the U.S. Coast Guard prepares for the busiest months of the hurricane season, which are August and September.
This marks the first hurricane season the DRS will be fully deployed by the Coast Guard. Previously a contractor was responsible for deploying the system, which meant the DRS could not be moved from its contractor-owned Huntsville, Ala., storage facility to an area close to an approaching hurricane without an approved contract and contingency funding.
Rescue 21 is the Coast Guard’s advanced direction-finding communications system designed to better locate mariners in distress and save lives and property at sea. “We have a lot more flexibility than ever before. DRS now can be deployed quickly, whereas in the past, the Coast Guard needed a contract action in order to move it,” said Capt. Al Arsenault, Rescue 21 assistant project manager. “DRS is just one part of the next generation of communications that Rescue 21 is delivering.”
The Coast Guard’s new responsibilities include the transportation, staging and set-up of the DRS equipment. The Coast Guard worked closely with the contractor to complete the physical transfer of the DRS equipment and conduct a hands-on training session and exercise this past spring. “Now we can plan in advance. Previously we had to receive money and permission to move the system. We can be proactive instead of reactive,” explained Lt. Mark Moriarty, Rescue 21 assistant logistics manger.
The Coast Guard owns four sets of readily-deployable DRS assets, three of which are now stored at the Communications Area Master Station Atlantic in Chesapeake, Va., and one is stored at the Communications Area Master Station Pacific in Point Reyes, Calif. Each set consists of a truck with a suite of transmitting equipment, a portable telescoping antenna tower, two satellite dishes, and auxiliary generators. The Coast Guard has also established DRS capability at its Operations Systems Center (OSC) in Martinsburg, W.Va., that can replicate a Sector Command Center’s Rescue 21 communication capabilities in a safe location during a disaster.
DRS will restore communications in the event of a tower failure, damage to a remote transmitting site or the communications lines to that site, or the loss of a Sector Command Center’s Rescue 21 communications. DRS restoration capabilities include voice and data communications, caller position location (i.e. lines of bearing) and communications recording, archiving and retrieval.
DRS was successfully deployed last year for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike to keep Rescue 21 communications systems running in Sector New Orleans. In preparation for Hurricane Gustav’s arrival, the Coast Guard relocated its New Orleans Rescue 21 watchstanders to OSC Martinsburg, where they were able to maintain watch over the Crescent City while staying out of harm’s way. While everyone hopes for a calm hurricane season this year, Rescue 21 is better equipped and more prepared than ever before to restore emergency communications in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
By harnessing today’s cutting-edge technology, Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to execute all its missions, especially its search and rescue mission, with greater agility and efficiency. Rescue 21 is currently standing watch and saving lives over more than 28,000 miles of coastline at 20 of 39 Coast Guard Sectors. Humboldt Bay, Calif., Southern New England, Northern New England and Corpus Christi, Texas, are the next four sectors scheduled to accept Rescue 21 through the end of 2009.
When fully deployed in 2017, Rescue 21 will provide coverage throughout the coastal continental United States, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as modified coverage in Alaska and along the Western Rivers, including the Mississippi River.