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 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.

Richard Stubbs, Senior Director of Disaster Plans & Exercises for the Connecticut Chapter expressed his enthusiasm for the new capabilities that Mutualink offered. “We were able to meet all of our objectives during this exercise and more. The fact that we had three Red Cross Chapters based in CT, NY, and NJ, two mobile Red Cross command vehicles, and radio users all able to share a variety of communication methods including live video was very significant. During the exercise, radio users in Connecticut and New York normally out of range from each other were able to communicate directly as well as with EOC directors at all locations simultaneously. Mutualink enabled us to establish a new level of real time regional interoperability and collaboration capability that can improve multi-chapter Red Cross Chapter response coordination, provide us with real time access to our emergency management partners and other critical response assets with whom we must work closely. It was a great resource for building a common operational picture and acted as a major force multiplier for us,” said Stubbs.

Mutualink is the industry’s pioneer in creating scalable, dynamic peer based interoperability and provides its solution at an industry leading affordable price. According to Mark Hatten, Chairman and CEO of Mutualink, “Mutualink is a distributed peer based solution with no central servers, and provides secure on-demand interoperability with disparate two-way radio, telephone, and mobile equipment, and real time video and information sharing. Our ability to participate in an exercise of this nature across three states demonstrates Mutualink’s scalability, ease of use and value in enabling true interoperable environments that allow first responders, emergency response agencies and other critical community assets to come together whenever and wherever on an as needed basis across disciplines and all hazards. We are grateful to the Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross and other participating Red Cross chapters in New York and New Jersey for selecting Mutualink to facilitate this ground breaking achievement. The Red Cross plays a vital role in disaster response and relief efforts and their participation is precisely the type of enhanced collaboration and coordination that is envisioned under national emergency response policies.”

About Mutualink, Inc.
Mutualink is an IP based multimedia interoperable communications company that enables radio, telephone, video and data to be shared on a real time, dynamic incident basis. Mutualink has gained rapid acceptance because of its ease of use, ease of deployment, low cost and full featured capabilities. Mutualink enables communities to create a large scale, real time interoperable emergency communications networks at a reasonable cost while getting best of breed features and capabilities. Mutualink was recently deployed by a consortium of 21 hospitals and health facilities in northern New Jersey as part of its all hazards preparedness initiative connecting them to OEMs and to numerous first responders as well as other community assets such as malls and a local stadium. Additionally, five key law enforcement agencies, including the Pentagon Force Protection Agency utilized Mutualink’s platform during the Presidential inauguration, providing the agencies with seamless communications interoperability and real time video surveillance sharing during the event.

For More Information & Further Inquiry:
Dawn Odams
Mutualink, Inc.
Phone: (978) 392-0040 x101
Email: dodams@mutualink.net

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