CT Red Cross Disaster Exercise Demonstrates First of Its Kind Regional Communications Interoperability

Farmington, CT. Believed to be the first of its kind, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross spearheaded and demonstrated regional interoperable emergency communications and collaboration capabilities involving neighboring out-of-state Red...


Farmington, CT. Believed to be the first of its kind, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross spearheaded and demonstrated regional interoperable emergency communications and collaboration capabilities involving neighboring out-of-state Red Cross chapters, hospitals and emergency operations centers (EOCs) over a three state area, during its recent communications exercise (COMMEX 2009). The Connecticut Chapter utilized Mutualink’s multimedia interoperable communications platform during its two day, multi-agency and multi-discipline exercise.

During mock incident response scenarios, the Mutualink interoperable multimedia emergency communications system provided seamless communications and information sharing among parties throughout the three state region by linking normally incompatible two way and push-to-talk radios, telephone PBX systems and mobiles telephones and facilitating inter-dispatch coordination. Additionally, Mutualink's interoperable platform provided COMMEX participants secure access to live, on-scene video feeds.

When a disaster occurs, the Red Cross frequently deploys resources from outside the local area to the incident’s location. Traditionally, communication and coordination during these events can be a significant challenge as parties and locations with different and incompatible communications systems become involved, resulting in messages being relayed manually, having to be repeated through multiple environments, or being lost and leading to errors and delays in retransmission, and forcing field personnel to carry and manage multiple radios and communications devices.

This year’s COMMEX simulated a disaster incident involving a loss of all communication capabilities at the Connecticut Chapter’s Red Cross location in Bridgeport. Incident command was established at the Farmington, CT headquarters and an Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) was immediately deployed to Bridgeport to re-establish capabilities for that location. Mutualink provided seamless communications and streaming on scene video from the Red Cross ECRV in Bridgeport back to the Red Cross location in Farmington as well as to the chapter’s back-up operations center in New Haven. Mario Bruno, Chief Response Officer for the CT Red Cross observed that, “it is critical for multiple Red Cross locations to have the ability to communicate effectively during a disaster. We rely on our ability to pool our resources and focus on the area in need. Effective interoperable communication results in better coordination to help more people and a safer environment for our staff and volunteers in which to operate. It also allows us to better plan, coordinate and respond with first responder and other emergency assets to optimize outcomes.”

The exercise was then expanded using Mutualink to include communications and coordination with out-of-state Red Cross chapters and other response entities. Neighboring Red Cross participants included the Greater New York Red Cross Chapter EOC in Manhattan, NY and their mobile command vehicle located in Brooklyn, NY and the Northern New Jersey Red Cross Chapter EOC in Fairfield, NJ. Other emergency response assets participating included two of Connecticut’s major acute care hospitals, St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT and Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT. Additionally, Sonitrol Security Systems operations monitoring and dispatch center in Rocky Hill, CT and the City of Huntington, NY EOC located on Long Island participated.

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