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Communication Systems for Emergency Operations

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Journal article

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In the South Carolina State Guard SCSG, we have a Division Communications Section, and each Brigade has a Communications Section. Division operates a communications bus with 800 MHz radios primarily designed for interface with statewide Public Service communications. At First Brigade, we decided to concentrate our efforts on a more localized theater of operations, but expandable when required to cover state-wide and even world-wide communications. Modern radio communications systems, including cellular telephones, depend on a complex system of multiple radio towers with computer control over the total system. A breakdown in any part of the systems risks the loss of the total system. These systems are also extremely expensive, with each portable radio in the range of 1,000 and the central control station costing 100 times as much. The 1st Brigade, SCSG, has begun planning for communications needs after an event that could involve the loss of any or all of the systems currently used by Public Safety in the state. We are planning for a disaster at least as severe as Hurricane Katrina, involving the loss of commercial electrical power, the loss of most, if not all, functioning radio systems, and impassable roads. With no commercial power available, all radios would have to be battery operated, and use both rechargeable and disposable batteries easily and cheaply available on the local market. These radios would also have to be easy to operate, and the operators not required to have licenses. We selected radios operating in the GMRS General Mobile Radio Service 450 MHz band, for which the FCC will issue a 5-year license covering six radios for 75. These radios provide reliable communications up to 5 miles. Since longer range would also be required, the SCSG found a repeater that was man portable and that extended the range of the hand-held radios up to 30 miles. They also formed an amateur radio club and obtained an FCC license for very long-range communications.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Civil Defense
  • Radio Communications

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