M/A-COM system keeps Mississippi county communicating during Katrina
M/A-COM this week announced that its EDACS system covering Gulfport, Miss., and Biloxi, Miss., remained operational throughout the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s aftermath.
Four of the five tower sites in Harrison County’s EDACS system—a network that typically serves more than 4000 local, state and federal users—functioned throughout the hurricane and its aftermath, said Gil Bailey, Harrison County’s telecommunication manager. The fifth site was damaged when the hurricane’s heavy winds shifted a microwave dish, but that circumstance was corrected within 48 hours of the storm passing the area.
Although Harrison County was hit by a 32-foot tidal surge, communications in the county were maintained largely because the design planning conducted by the county years ago meant none of the base stations were submerged in flood water, Bailey said.
“We required all of our site locations … to have a floor elevation at least four feet above the 100-year flood plain,” Bailey said. “In some locations, we actually had to raise sites physically off the ground.”
In addition, specifications for the system called for Harrison County’s towers to be able to withstand sustained winds of 150 mph with a half-inch of ice, which equates to a 200 mph wind rating, Bailey said.
“I think the planning and engineering definitely helped make us a survivable entity. We were able to survive the storm,” he said.
In addition to weathering the storm, the M/A-COM system allowed easily deployed interoperable communications with more than 800 new users offering aid to the area, even with Indiana state police officers using low-band radios.
“Even though they were on two separate frequency configurations and were two separate departments, they had seamless communications,” Bailey said. “That’s the beauty of this system. It is so easy to create patches, to do away patches and to bring in multiple applications into a single point. Modify them, change them and delete them as you need. It’s very robust, from that standpoint.”
Although the Harrison County system did experience capacity overloads at times, the fact that the communications system remained operational has been vital to the recovery effort in the region and well worth the extra efforts taken in the construction of the network, Bailey said.
“We’re going to have to do some repairs and cleanups, but at least we’ve got one to clean up,” he said.