AA Batteries save lives

I’d been wondering about the horrible on-the-ground communications problems in Louisiana, and this article in fcw.com (Federal Computer Week) has the answer.
The handheld radios used by first responders in the New Orleans area use cellphone-style batteries that require electricity to recharge. Without new power, they ran out of battery and were out of touch. Fcw.com reports that the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, sent in radio systems that run on AA batteries.
Something as simple as radios that run on AA batteries can save lives.
Also, the different parishes used different frequencies to communicate, and local groups used different frequencies than the feds, according to this Wall Street Journal article. There was a sort of central switchboard that could patch together communications across the systems, but it was knocked out during the storm.
Upgrading to AA-battery radios with compatible frequencies is just the sort of unglamorous maintenance expense that is easy to avoid in tight budgetary times. And a seemingly little thing that is infinitely expensive in an emergency.
Update: another reason for the breakdown in communications — apparently the National Guard’s backup generators were in Iraq. Need to re-find the source that reported this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *