UPLINK: The Way Things Were + Are...
by Hartley Lesser, Editorial Director
Here we are Spring the start of the SATCOM and MILSATCOM industry trade shows circuis. Although there have been a few alterations in various companies plans to exhibit and/or participate at these shows, the numbers in attendance reflect a highly positive attitude regarding the business future of our various arenas. This is a good sign that the economic environs of our industries are weathering the financial ebbs and flows with far better aplomb than many had expected. Let us all be grateful for our employment, and that we are able to maintain and, yes, even forge further ahead with our satellite professions, and to create products and services that remain in demand across the globe.
I am particularly delighted in this issue to present the new capabilities afforded emergency communications, as offered by various companies such as SkyTerra and their SMART talkgroups. I have a personal interest in this arena of SATCOM... not so long ago, such emergency communications were hampered by differing frequencies and an inability to effectively control services in a unified manner. I offer one, personal, horrendous example of the way things used to be...
A military jet on approach to a Naval Air Station ran into difficulty and crashed directly into a tall apartment building located in the center of a medium-sized municipality. Jet fuel ignited and engulfed the building and surrounding area, with several deaths resulting immediately. The small cadre of police officers on third shift immediately responded to a Code 3 call to the scene, as did the citys fire department. The first responders did all in their power to save lives, ensure public safety, and then affected a perimeter to prevent additional loss of life and property damage. Calls for mutual aid were placed to surrounding cities and county services were requested, for everything from additional first responders to communications. State agencies were contacted and, as this was a military jet, federal and U.S. Navy offices were also notified. And then the communications nightmare began... no one could communicate with one another!
The local police departments operations center had to monitor a separate radio frequency for the fire department dispatch had to keep two ears open to both police and fire communications to coordinate the dispatch of officers to the most needed locations there was no direct communication between the local departments. Helicopters from a neighboring city and a local county agency circled the site of the tragedy. Telephone calls were placed from each of their particular dispatch centers to the local PDs dispatch center to relay information regarding the spread of fires, crowd control, and looter locations. State law enforcement agencies arrived to assist with crowd control, and their agencies could not communicate directly with the local PDs dispatch center. Patrol vehicles were positioned near one another in order for one unit to relay to dispatch what was being sent over the assisting units radio from that agencys dispatch center. There werent enough phone lines to accommodate incoming and outgoing calls command staff were juggling various portable radios as they listened to the different agencies relaying crucially needed information. Only so such could be relayed to the central communications center to ensure constant contact and updates to personnel in the field. Somehow, after three days of intense communication, safety and sanity returned to the city, but not without much wasted effort, frustration, expense, and a desire for updated communication technology. With SATCOM services such as SMART available nowadays, this scenario need never be repeated ever again thank God.
Hartley Lesser, Editorial Director