Cel-Fi GO RED Makes Emergency Response Easier for Humanitarian Aid Organization

Summary

Challenge

  • In disaster situations, existing telecommunications infrastructure is often unable to support basic communication such as texts and calls due to sustained damage
  • The U.S. branch of an international humanitarian aid organization needed to power reliable communications from within its disaster response trailers, which act as stationary operation centers for staff and volunteers, to both non- and FirstNet-enabled devices
  • Satellite solutions are expensive and slow and cannot simultaneously support basic and high-bandwidth activities, such as streaming videos

Solution

  • Cel-Fi GO RED

Results

  • Access to FirstNet and a strong cellular signal
  • Accelerated pre-deployment readiness
  • Quick and easy install

The Challenge

An international humanitarian aid organization helps people get back on their feet by providing disaster relief, which includes deploying volunteer teams of doctors and nurses and removing fallen trees to sifting through debris after a fire or clearing water damage from a house after a flood. It typically sets up disaster response tractor trailers that, in addition to transporting and storing equipment, serve as command centers from which organizers can oversee relief operations. This includes sending more or different equipment to a particular area, or mobilizing volunteers where more assistance was needed. Often times, these communications come in the form or texts, calls, or video streams – which require a stable, reliable communications signal.

After previously having difficulties getting a disaster response site communications up and operational following a Florida hurricane, the U.S. team subscribed to FirstNet, the first responder-dedicated network that was formed in 2012 for public safety communications during an emergency. However, the disaster response team soon discovered that due to the metal structure of its trailers and partially damaged cell sites, an adequate cellular signal was not available inside the trailers for all their FirstNet-enabled LTE devices.

The Solution

Based on recommendations from AT&T, members of the North American team installed Cel-Fi GO RED in each of their disaster response trailers to deliver the FirstNet signal strength needed. Cel-Fi GO RED, a FirstNet booster developed by Nextivity, amplifies Band 14 cellular signal for emergency communications and Band 12 for general communications.

“Today we use Cel-Fi GO RED as part of our larger cellular LTE backhaul infrastructure to pull in stronger signals from damaged infrastructure to our modems, and to boost that FirstNet signal inside the trailer,” says an ICT disaster response specialist with the North American team.

Cel-Fi GO RED is installed inside the trailers in a cabinet next to other communications equipment. An external multi-band antenna sits on top of each truck. The signal is then split between an internal server antenna located inside the office space and an LTE modem from Cradlepoint, which serves as the connectivity backbone for its network. At any given time, there are between 10 to 12 people working off the modems, sending emails, accessing internal applications – and even getting updates from the local news.

Each unit took about 15 minutes for the in-house IT team to install. With the Cel-Fi WAVE app, the organization can run diagnostics remotely to ensure the equipment is working as it should. This has also accelerated pre-deployment readiness checks on the vehicles, which means the organization is ready to lend a hand as soon as it arrives at a disaster site.

“With Cel-Fi GO RED it’s business as usual,” explains the ICT disaster response specialist. “We don’t have to wait for a video stream to end before we can send a text or make a call. It removes a layer of complexity that enables us to just get on with the job of helping people when they need it most.”

The Results

Access to FirstNet and a strong cellular signal was essential to the organization’s disaster response. When setting up an Emergency Field Hospital, response teams could rely on FirstNet for their critical communications and operations as Cel-Fi GO RED immediately boosted that signal at their command site even though they were in a location with no ISP connections.

Less than 48 hours after a powerful EF2 tornado touched down in a Mississippi county, the North American team was on site assessing damage. A member of the in-house IT team, who was in Alaska at the time, conducted pre-deployment communication checks via Cel-Fi WAVE and the team was able to communicate when they arrived – a far cry from the average two weeks he typically had to spend getting communication up and running to support previous relief efforts.

According to the organization’s ICT disaster response specialist, “We often take the ability to communicate for granted, but when you’re cut off from the outside world you can’t ask for help. It could be as simple as coordinating personnel so that they stay out of an area where rescue operations are still underway, or calling for medical support or assistance with an evacuation. With Cel-Fi GO RED, we know we can communicate when we need to, which helps us help others that much more effectively.”

“Cel-Fi GO RED is the only public safety booster on the market that is easy to install, maintain, and use. We’ve recommended it to other organizations, and will continue to do so, because it just works,” he adds.

Contact us today to help with your Cellular Coverage Problems

This Cel-Fi installation was undertaken by our partners, in which Cel-Fi has a global footprint in almost 100 countries. For a referral to a local expert in your area, please contact us via phone or email.

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