August 18, 1995

Red Cross arms with Ardis to counter Felix

By Michael Moeller

As the United States watches and waits for Hurricane Felix to smash into the Atlantic seaboard within the next 24 hours, the Red Cross is racing to prepare its relief efforts to combat the aftereffects of the storm.

One of the key tools with which the Red Cross will arm its workers is Ardis' wireless handheld terminals and two-way wireless data-networking technology.

Although the severity and damage caused by Felix, which is currently wavering between a hurricane and a tropical storm, remains uncertain, one thing the Red Cross officials are not counting on is wire-line telephone service in the areas where Felix is likely to come ashore.

``In all likelihood, when we move in to survey the damage, there won't be phones operational, and we need to have everyone stay in touch so that we can coordinate our operations,'' said Steve Hailey, disaster services division communications officer at the Red Cross' Washington headquarters.

The Red Cross has tapped wireless-network provider Ardis to provide its two way wireless-data communications between Red Cross officials on-site as and at its headquarters. In addition, the Red Cross will make use of cellular phones and pagers to help coordinate relief efforts.

Ardis has donated free network services as well as the 15 handheld terminals, called KDTs, that the Red Cross will use for such operations as mass care, damage assessment, and emergency response units.

One of the chief reasons for the Red Cross' use of Ardis is its ability to maintain coverage even if a base station goes down. Ardis' two-way wireless-data network is constructed to allow other base stations to automatically fill in the gaps in coverage--in effect creating a redundant path. By comparison, if a cellular base station is knocked out, a hole is created in the coverage, Ardis officials said.

This is not the first time that the Red Cross has relied on the Ardis network during a disaster. Similar use was needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Erin, as well as Hurricane Andrew and after the Los Angeles riots.

``Because of the store-and-forward capabilities of Ardis, if a message is sent, it can be stored and be waiting for a user when they get a chance to look at the handheld terminal,'' said Hailey. ``That is real important because the employees are real busy and don't have time to constantly be monitoring the device. This way they can pick it up to find messages as frequently as possible.''

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