The U.S. Coast Guard restored full maritime radio communications in the Venice and Port Sulphur areas of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
by using a Disaster Recovery System portable antenna tower, enabling search and rescue operations to continue in the devastated region.
"The tower was designed as a critical component of the Rescue 21 command and control system to provide emergency communications following a crisis," said Capt. Robert Mobley, Rescue 21 project manager.
The Coast Guard received a transmission from the motor vessel Douglas within
days of deploying the system after the vessel struck an object in the southern portion of the Mississippi River. The clear communications transmitted via the system allowed the Coast Guard to respond to the vessel’s emergency. . The success of the system and subsequent cases is due to collaborative efforts of engineering teams from both the Coast Guard and the prime contractor, said Mobley.
"It’s one thing to work on a project such as this in the lab, but to see it operating in the field and providing needed support, is gratifying," said Mobley.
Despite adverse conditions, technicians and engineers deployed a system designed to be an independent, stand-alone module that does not have to rely upon any infrastructure such as Internet, electricity or communications. The fully functional, temporary disaster communications system is self-sufficient and has its own generator and satellite connectivity to the Coast Guard’s Operations Systems Center, in Martinsburg, W. Va.
"Martinsburg is a natural choice for a downlink site because it is the Coast Guard’s central communications hub," said Mobley. "Seven successful search and rescue cases since deployment have already proven the tower’s worth."
The Disaster Recovery System would not normally be deployed until the full Rescue 21 communications system is functional, but contingency planning efforts allowed the Coast Guard to deploy the system early and ensure communications for mariners in the storm-ravaged area.
Currently entering the full production phase, Rescue 21 has been developed to replace outdated communications technology and will become the Coast Guard’s command and control system along 95,000 miles of coastline, including navigable rivers and lakes, in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. The system is intended to improve communications with 78 million boaters who use U.S. waterways, and it is the second largest acquisition program by the Coast Guard. General Dynamics C4 Systems is the prime contractor for the Rescue 21 project.