Providing vital communications during natural disasters or emergencies

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dustin Clary and Maj. Jennifer C. Howsare
  • 126th Public Affairs Office
Airmen assigned to the 126th Communications Flight (CF) know that reliable communications are essential everyday but become more critical during times of natural disasters or emergencies. Training and equipment are ever-evolving and the Director of Homeland Security has stated that next generation emergency communications equipment must be highly mobile, very interoperable and easily operated.

The Contingency Response Communications System (CRCS) is one piece of next generation equipment in the 126 CF's arsenal of weapons in the battle for reliable emergency communications. The CRCS is an Internet Protocol (IP) based agency-neutral solution that allows first responders to communicate and exchange information with radio interoperability, live streaming video, wireless Internet, and VoIP (voice over IP) services.

The CRCS is highly mobile because all equipment is maintained in an equipment container or box secured in the rear of a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Humvee. The equipment serves as a mobile wireless communications center capable of wireless Internet transmissions with the ability to make phone calls in remote areas. A surveillance camera attached to the exterior of the box allows commanders to assess any damage and make action plans based off a real-time picture.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Kruse is the Wireless Transmissions Manager assigned to the 126 CF and often oversees CRCS training for Communications Flight personnel. His most recent class was conducted during the unit's March 2012 Unit Training Assembly and focused on system set-up and immediate arrival procedures. Kruse stated that the system is relatively easy to set up and within 30 minutes two trained personnel could have the antennas locked into place and the system operational.

Once operational the CRCS allows emergency first responders to quickly communicate with military commanders through phone or Internet. This quick communications capability drastically decreases the gap between the front lines of a disaster to the critical decision-making authorities. Real-time decisions become possible and emergency/disaster relief efforts are precisely directed when and where they are needed.