July 10, 2009 - For immediate release
JEFFERSON CITY - International recognition is being given to the Missouri Department of Transportation emergency communications network, which helps people communicate during times of disaster. The system recently won the International Satellite Communications exchange Innovation and Technology Award. This is the first time in the award's seven-year history that it has been given to a government agency.
"This emergency communications system is changing the way communities recover from unforeseen events," said Don Hillis, MoDOT System Management director. "It gives relief agencies access to the resources they need to help people rebuild after emergencies."
MoDOT's emergency communications system was created in 2004 with Homeland Security funds. It is tied in to the existing infrastructure and helps provide critical communications during disasters using satellites and radio towers throughout the state to send radio transmissions and other data communications. It is comprised of several components:
· three Mobile Emergency Response Operations Center, or MEROC trailers with enough power, office space, computers, telephones, radios, food and water for up to eight people for seven days;
· a Mobile Emergency Communications Response vehicle, which is used to help move the MEROC trailers and is also a stand-alone operations center;
· three Mobile Emergency Repeater Trailers, which are deployed in case of tower loss;
· 10 district sites that consist of a satellite dish, satellite modem, a work station, a phone and printer server;
· three strategically located staging areas;
· and seven repeater sites that allow for direct communications from one end of the state to the other on hand-held radios.
"MoDOT cares about keeping people safe on the transportation system at all times," Hillis said. "So if we can help get emergency services where they need to be faster and get people up and going more quickly during disasters - then we know we're doing what we can do to make a positive difference."
Severe weather and other disasters often leave communities mired in the chaotic process of recovery. If flooding, severe storms, or earthquakes should disrupt land-based communication, MoDOT staff is dispatched to reestablish communications, allowing the community to get back on its feet as quickly as possible.
The MEROC trailers have been used several times in their history including during ice storms in Springfield and Dallas County and flash floods in Clarksville and Greenville.
"It is important for MoDOT to help provide fast and effective communications for public safety needs," Hillis said. "When disasters strike and our usual communication resources are unavailable, we now have an emergency response system to help Missourians."
The ISCe award originated in 2002 and is used to recognize innovation and advancement in the satellite and communications industry. MoDOT was presented with the award at a recent conference in California.
To find out more, please visit http://www.modot.org/ or call 888-ASK-MODOT.
Editor's note: A photo showing a MEROC vehicle in action can be found at www.modot.org/newsroom.