in Check It Out, Raleigh, X-Geek

Emergency Management’s pCom unit

At tonight’s Rise Up Raleigh benefit concert there was a number of emergency vehicles parked out for the public to see. I spent some time talking with Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Frank McLaurin about the state’s new mobile command post for disaster communications. The unit consists of a truck with desks, video, computers, and phone, towing a pCom satellite communications trailer.

Frank told me the pCom can provide 16 VoIP channels off of its self-aiming satellite dish. The trailer also provides 10kw of generator power, air-conditioned racks for networking gear and radio repeaters, and a 41 foot pneumatic tower for radio antennas, lights, or cameras. Oh, and an air compressor is included to raise the tower and also to provide compressed air for tools. It’s a pretty sweet setup!

Frank told me the state has owned it since August and has been building out the truck since then. He says the truck worked its first disaster during the April tornado, where it provided electricity and communications at the city’s Keeter fire training center in south Raleigh: one of the areas hit hard by the tornado.

The IP service provided by the satellite is amazingly inexpensive, too. The rate is $60 a day, compared to other services which run well over $60 per hour.

As a satellite buff I was curious about this system, but as a guy who’s provided amateur radio emergency communications during the hurricanes that have hit Raleigh I can appreciate the value of a mobile communications center. This is one cool mobile unit!

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