DISA's satellite-comm device helps with Colorado flood efforts

Army Air National Guard units assisting with the recovery from the devastating floods in Colorado are getting around communications barriers with the help of a variety of devices and technologies, including pocket-sized communicator and personal tracking devices from the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Twenty of DISA’s SHOUT Nanos devices are being used by the Guard to share the exact location and situation details of search and rescue missions, DISA reported on its Facebook page.

The SHOUT Nano, which uses Iridium’s satellite-based short-burst data messaging service for global coverage, is a portable, handheld two-way outdoor satellite messaging and GPS device for emergency/rescue, text messaging applications and location-based services. It contains a GPS receiver for location tracking and allows for two-way inbound and outbound status and text messaging, support/alert notifications and text based communications. An internal motion sensor allows detection of man-down scenarios.

The device is designed to have ultra-low power consumption, drawing less than 50 microamps during sleep. With an internal 1.95 amp-hour rechargeable lithium-ion battery, it can send a position report every hour for up to two months. It is equipped with an LCD display and an on-screen keyboards to support free-text, canned messages and a combination of free-text and canned messages.

The device can periodically wake up from sleep to send its position report to a command center. A 911 button is used for immediate emergency/alert notifications.

Data is transmitted in either standard or 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard format and complies with the Blue Force Tracking Data Format Specification.

The SHOUT Nano is one devices being used to help with relief efforts after the floods, which disrupted communications in the hardest-hit areas. Juniper Systems, for example, has loaned ten Mesa Rugged Notepads to state officials for in disaster management. Amateur ham radio operators provided communications support. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s FEMA's Mobile Emergency Response Support vehicle provided emergency communications at the Boulder Municipal Airport.

According to The Weather Channel, eight people have died and six were unaccountable as of Sept. 24 from the flooding. 

The floods caused damage across 17 counties and nearly 2,000 square miles. Nearly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed along with more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 state bridges, the news site reported. It’s also blamed for spills of about 27,000 gallons of oil in northern Colorado oilfields, said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. About 1,300 oil and gas wells remain shut down.

President Barack Obama declared the situation – severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides – a major disaster and ordered federal aid beginning Sept. 11.

More than 750 members of the Colorado National Guard are assisting with disaster relief efforts, the Army National Guard said. As of 11 a.m. Sept. 21, the Colorado National Guard, 4th Infantry Division and Wyoming National Guard evacuated 3,233 people and 1,047 pets, according to the Colorado National Guard. Aerial teams evacuated 2,526 people – 83 by hoist – and 1,047 pets. Helicopters and crews also transported 48.3 tons of cargo, including critical food, water and clothing; as well as transportation and engineering supplies.

The SHOUT Nano is provided by DISA’s Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services under the Commercial Satellite Communications Center. EMSS provides services including voice, secure voice, Distributed Tactical Communications Systems, messaging and data to the Department of Defense, other Federal departments, agencies, state and local governments, and approved foreign and allied government users.

The devices can be purchased from EMSS through DISA’s Direct Order Entry website.  

Other agencies to use Iridium’s technology include the Federal Aviation Administration, which in 2011 authorized aircraft operating in oceanic space to use Iridium’s satellite data service for critical air traffic control communications. 

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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