This is ideal, considering local fire and law enforcement are typically the first to arrive on the scene of an emergency.
"The New York Fire Department is now putting NOMAD TAPs on fire trucks to provide wireless communication," Reilly says. "They're dropping wireless video cameras around burning buildings to provide surveillance. Those wireless cameras then have the ability to be presented to any laptop or smart device on our network, and because we have a backhaul link via cellular or satellite, we can push the video through the network and back to the emergency operations center or critical incident responders located anywhere in the world."
Power was the next obstacle to overcome. In most disaster zones, electricity is non-existent or scarce at best, and establishing power during the critical first 24 hours of emergency response is of utmost importance. The complete critical response unit needed to be self-sufficient and incorporate the highest level of technology to ensure it would operate when needed. To meet this requirement, Z5 and Microsoft integrated a rechargeable 750 to 850 Watt power supply into each unit. This power supply leverages field replaceable MIL-STD BB-2590/U batteries for up to 24 hours of mission support on a single charge.
Finally, the unit needed to be tested in the field. All of these technological innovations look great on paper, but are meaningless unless they have been proven to work under real emergency conditions. The NOMAD is currently deployed to every Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region across the United States, and can be found in Afghanistan, Africa, various regions of the Middle East and even South America. Seven days after the devastating 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in the Sichuan province of China, a NOMAD was shipped to the region to provide continuity of operations for IBM in China. And in 2007, NOMADs were deployed to California to aid in the battle against the blazing wildfires.
"This state-of-the-art unit is possible because it combines the technological expertise of Fortified DataCom and Microsoft with the operational expertise of first responders who have served in disaster areas," says Steve Cooper, Fortified Holdings Corp. president and whose background as the former Chief Information Officer of both the American Red Cross and the Department of Homeland Security acted as a driving force behind NOMAD's development.
"When you start with a 20- to 24-hour sustainable power source, layer on networking capabilities, add the option to create a private mobile GSM cellular network then provide backhaul via redundant cellular and satellite links, what you have is a unit that provides command and control software in a remote office," Reilly says. "This allows users the ability to make a phone call, hold a video teleconference, send and receive e-mail, access the Internet, move documents over the network, print, fax, scan and copy — all from one device deployed within 5 minutes by one person anywhere in the world."
To take a note from the Boy Scouts of America, nothing makes more of an impact in a crisis than preparation. Arriving at the scene of a disaster with the right tools and equipment means crews can begin working immediately and effectively.
David Anthony Ross is a Minneapolis, Minn.-based freelance writer.