FirstNet enables first responders to prepare for all types of disasters and events — natural and manmade, predictable and unpredictable. In Oregon, public safety officials plan for a variety of natural disasters throughout the year, including snowstorms and wildfires. They also prepare for the rare events, like a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.
A subduction zone earthquake is different from crustal earthquakes, which are typically sharp and quick. A subduction zone earthquake can last between three and five minutes and cause tsunami inundation, landslides, and soil liquification. While regions cannot predict when this type of earthquake will occur, they can prepare for when it strikes.
Ed Flick, Director of the Office of Resilience and Emergency Management in the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), and his team are preparing for a potential Cascadia subduction zone earthquake in the Pacific Northwest Region with the help of FirstNet, “If you can’t communicate, there’s no way you can develop an effective response,” Flick says.
Compact rapid deployables for earthquake response
ODHS has identified locations in Oregon that could become “islands” if such an earthquake occurred — isolated from the surrounding communities without transportation corridors, communication capabilities, and access to vital supplies. Without communications, first responders would not be able to begin the restoration process in these areas. To prepare for this scenario, ODHS purchased 10 Compact Rapid Deployables (CRDs) and stationed them across the state, specifically targeting regions where these “islands” could emerge.
CRDs are mobile cell sites that are small enough to be transported with a pickup truck or trailer, can be set up in approximately one hour, and provide FirstNet cellular and Wi-Fi coverage via satellite connectivity. With the CRDs strategically stationed across the state, ODHS can quickly establish communications infrastructure anywhere needed.
“It’s got a generator on board, and it has the ability to operate from shore power. It is simple to put into operation,” Flick added. “I can’t say enough about how great this self-contained unit is.”
Oregon public safety train with compact rapid deployables
Although the CRD is relatively easy to deploy, ODHS has made it a priority to familiarize and train ODHS staff and Oregon first responders on their capabilities. “We’ve taken a lot of pain to educate and train the staff that are going to operate these devices to be able to put them into use very rapidly when we need them,” explained Flick. “If you don’t practice with something you’re probably not going to be able to do it when you need to.”
In addition, Flick and the responders across Oregon have had valuable, real-world experience utilizing FirstNet CRDs through planned training exercises, such as the Able Readiness 1 Exercise. Through the exercise, ODHS tested whether it could adequately field an Evacuation Assembly Point in an area that is likely to be affected by a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. ODHS used amateur radios as well as public safety and commercial radio capabilities in very high frequency (VHF), ultra-high frequency (UHF), and high frequency (HF) bands to complement their FirstNet CRD satellite capabilities.
Compact rapid deployables for events and responses
In addition to training and exercises, ODHS staff have had the opportunity to use CRDs for incidents and planned events. When an ODHS building lost connectivity, it stalled the staff’s ability to serve as much of their work relies on connectivity. The team deployed a CRD to reestablish a broadband connection so employees could continue to deliver vital social services to residents. For the World Athletic Championships that took place in Eugene in June 2022, ODHS collaborated with FirstNet, the City of Eugene, and Lane County to ensure communications were in place. ODHS deployed a CRD at the event’s Emergency Operations Center. Fortunately, Flick said there were no such issues at the World Athletic Championship.
Compact rapid deployables provide another coverage solution for responders
When disasters strike, communications are key to starting the recovery process. CRDs offer a nimble solution to supply broadband coverage at a moment’s notice. With their CRD program in place, ODHS is ready to face any challenge — even a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.
“We think the world of this capability and the partnership with FirstNet,” said Flick.
To learn more about CRDs and other deployable network assets, visit FirstNet.gov/deployables.
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