Hurricane Michael Disaster Recovery Concludes

21 October – The MOVE team has completed their Hurricane Michael disaster response deployment and are headed home.  Thank you to everyone who has supported the IEEE MOVE Community Outreach program. This deployment truly had a significant and direct impact on many people who were in very dire need. Special thanks to Tim Grayson and Tim Forrest for their sacrifices and hard work during this deployment.

You can help – MOVE is funded by donations like yours. Your support is greatly appreciated. Please consider helping the MOVE Community Outreach program by donating to the cause.

Interested in volunteering? Please visit our volunteer information page.

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20 October – Today is the team’s last active day on this deployment. Tomorrow morning they will be headed home. Today they were busy transitioning the site to a new Red Cross DST team. Red Cross volunteers are here from Columbus, Ohio with the Red Cross Mobile Communications Center. They were previously deployed to another shelter but have been directed to take over coverage of this shelter so we could return. Both units are using Cisco Meraki networking equipment, so the transition went smoothly. Thank you to Cisco Meraki for being a MOVE corporate sponsor. The Red Cross site director thanked IEEE at the evening all hands meeting for our support of this Disaster Response. She said we set a high bar for the replacement team.

19 October – Today the team continued to monitor the network and support the Red Cross with technology services. In the last 24 hours 189 devices transferred 31 GB of data (Note that we block streaming, so that is 31 GB of basically web pages!). Today we met a couple with 2 kids. They told us they had lost their house, car, and jobs in the storm. They are staying at the shelter and working with FEMA for assistance. They then told the team they were unable to see FEMA correspondence because they had no internet. The IEEE team was able to show them how to get onto the internet. We hope this makes their life just a little better.

This evening our volunteers borrowed a car and went out to eat. Many restaurants are open, but only for cash. Credit cards are not accepted as there is no internet service (Only restaurants that have a satellite dish are able to process credit card transactions). There remains a boil water restriction in the area so only canned soda was available. The team was able to finally enjoy a meal that was not served in a styrofoam clamshell box with plastic silverware.

IEEE-USA’s MOVE team is scheduled to depart the area on Sunday and head home. Cell service is pretty stable now (except for a few hours this afternoon) and our networks have been very reliable. Another Red Cross team will work with them tomorrow to transition the networks to their control.

18 October – Shelter staff continues to grow at a rapid pace. Many new faces around. Thursday was a long but routine day. MOVE’s network is stable and moving about 30 GB per day. The team spent the day catching up on paperwork. They also set up a new work area for leadership.  This included configuration of internet access and 6 laptops.

17 October – The team woke up early today.  After an all-hands meeting, service was needed on the generator. The generator was shut down after over a week of 24/7 operations. After it cooled, Tim Forrest changed the oil. The network continued to operate on battery power during the oil change and there was no loss of service to the shelter. Pretty cool. Tim changing the oil prevented taking the truck out of service. Thanks, Tim…. great job!

Tim Forrest changing the generator’s oil

Verizon cell service finally came online for Panama City Beach last night. Makes life at the Red Cross shelter a whole lot easier. Over the last week since landfall most cell communications has been nonexistent… and IEEE MOVE transferred 82.8 GB of data from 384 devices. This was the only communications many volunteers and citizens had to connect with loved ones. It was also used by Red Cross volunteers for initial communications after landfall to establish plans to support and shelter those affected by the devastation. As Verizon towers are back online, they came and picked up the COW (Cell on Wheels).

The team established internet access and installed a printer for Health Services as well as some other DST support like additional printers, fax capability, and radios.

Verizon COW (Cell-On-Wheels)

16 October – The network was humming all day today. The team set up a laptop for tracking staff, fixed printers, and answered internet questions.. There has been no Verizon cell service at the shelter since MOVE’s arrival, so the team asked Verizon to bring in a COW (Cell on Wheels). Late this afternoon they brought charging stations for the shelter, brought in a large trailer for charging phones because of the large population there, and a COW.
The COW is a mobile cell tower with a satellite backhaul. It has limited capabilities but will certainly help people make Verizon phone calls.

Early this evening, another shipment of equipment arrived from Tallahassee. This will help in providing internet service to the other side of this campus, outside MOVE’s reach.

15 October – The team woke up early, packed up equipment and took the truck to the fuel depot to fill it up. As emergency responders in a declared federal disaster, the MOVE team has access to fuel (from FEMA?).  This access is essential as almost all gas stations have no power and most are destroyed.

The team returned to the shelter to find it had been evacuated. The shelter generator had failed and the shelter was dark. The Red Cross had quickly decided to move about 450 people to a new shelter about 12 miles away. So this afternoon, the team moved the truck to the new shelter and set up all their equipment. We have 2 wireless access points supporting the Red Cross volunteers as well as internet for the shelter residents. As there is no cell service, access to WiFi is important to everyone at the shelter. At the previous shelter, MOVE supported internet access for all emergency responders including Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 and international medical staff who had been unable to communicate with their families. They were all very appreciative.

It is rumored that Verizon and AT&T will bring in mobile cell towers (COLT – Cell On Light Truck) to support the shelter.

Most people don’t realize how hard Tim and Grayson work on a disaster. It is physically and mentally and emotionally challenging. Thank you for your efforts and sacrifices!

10/14/18 – West Panama City

14 October – For 30 miles or more, nearly every building is damaged and many are destroyed. Most trees are broken off and power poles are everywhere. It’s hard to believe the extent of the devastation.

There is still no power anywhere and 70-80% of cell towers are inoperable. There is no water and no air conditioning (even at the shelter) and it is hot! The shelter has portable showers, but no water to feed them. The team is extremely lucky to be able to sleep in the MOVE truck (which has AC). Power crews are everywhere, but there are no estimates on when power will be restored.

Tomorrow, the team will need MOVE truck to a fuel depot in town to get fuel. Will return to the shelter and provide internet and phone services to the Red Cross.

12 October (PM update) – Today the IEEE-USA MOVE team moved from the emergency operations center to a shelter with about 450 people. Tim Forrest arranged a police escort from the Florida Highway Patrol for the trip about 5 miles across town because of heavy traffic. The MOVE truck is set up at the shelter and is supplying critical communication support.

Meals Ready To Eat (MREs)

The team is tied to the truck and the closest restaurant is 30 miles away. Therefore, MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) are on the menu tonight. These are packets where you just add water and the packets heat up.  Tonight’s selections: sweet and sour chicken with rice and spaghetti. The team has MRE’s on the MOVE truck just for occasions like this. Early in big disasters they frequently do not have access to regular meals. So this is what keeps them going.

12 October (AM update) – Devastation: In Panama City, FL almost every building is damaged and many are destroyed. There is no power or cell phone service anywhere although some temporary cell service is coming online. Most side streets are blocked with downed trees and the main roads are littered with debris and downed power lines. Yesterday was hot (in the 90s) and most residents are unable to travel because of blocked roads. Air conditioning, food, and water are lacking. Today, the team is assisting the Red Cross with local operations.

11 October, 9:15 PM EDT Update – IEEE-USA’s MOVE team is currently at the Panama City Emergency Operations Center. There is no cell service. However, they were able to get a text out to say they were fine.  Unfortunately, there are no suitable buildings for them to stay in, so they (Grayson Randall and Tim Forrest) are sleeping on cots in the truck tonight.  Stay tuned for updates.

“The damage is terrible here (Panama City, FL).”

11 October – Yesterday, the MOVE team drove to Mobile, Alabama. They were on the west side of the hurricane which is the weak side of the storm and only experienced medium to heavy rain (but no real wind to speak of)
They are on route now to Panama City, FL to begin relief efforts.

10 October – IEEE-USA’s MOVE team got on the road yesterday and spent the night in  Anderson SC. Currently, they are planning on relocating to Mobile, AL today where they will standby until it is safe to access the impacted area by interstate I-10.

They are closely monitoring Hurricane Michael (now a category 4 storm) and will adjust plans as required. The team has access to national weather service and national hurricane center charts and data. In addition, IEEE-USA’s MOVE truck is well-equipped (weather alert radios, satellite TV, and public safety scanners) to monitor the situation in real time.

9 October – In one day…out the next. In less than a day of finishing its Hurricane Florence deployment, MOVE headed out to assist with Hurricane Michael relief efforts.

At this time,  Hurricane Michael has intensified to a Category 3 major hurricane and is expected to strike the Florida Panhandle Gulf coast Wednesday with life-threatening storm surge flooding, and destructive winds. Michael will also spread heavy rain and strong winds to other parts of the southeastern United States after it moves inland. Over one million people are expected to lose power.

If you are in the path of this major hurricane, please take the appropriate steps to stay safe:

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You Can Help

MOVE is funded by donations like yours. Your support is greatly appreciated. Please consider helping the MOVE Community Outreach program by donating to the cause.

Interested in volunteering? Please visit our volunteer information page.

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