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W2COG Katrina Relief Efforts Show Results

The World Wide Consortium for the Grid (W2COG), an international, collaborative association devoted to developing and delivering practical tools that advance and support netcentric operations (NCO) for global security and commerce, released details regarding its humanitarian relief project, one of a number of ongoing projects it has undertaken.

A team of military and private sector personnel has been operating in the Gulf Coast region since Sept. 5, focusing on restoring the telecommunications infrastructure that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the team has facilitated collaboration among federal relief authorities, volunteers from around the country, non-governmental organizations and local emergency operations responders from Mississippi and Florida.

With support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, experts from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems and other private sector research partners gathered in Bay St. Louis, Miss., to deploy a "Hastily Formed Network" (HFN), a NPS research initiative that serves as an operational field laboratory for the W2COG. The mission was to rapidly build a communications infrastructure out of the rubble of Hurricane Katrina in the Bay St. Louis and Waveland areas of Mississippi.

The team of 15 students and one faculty member from NPS brought in satellite broadband Internet access, 802.11 (WiFI) and 802.16 (WiMAX) wireless communications, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Skype Internet telephony, and the Groove collaborative workspace to enable communications among the local population, state and federal emergency services, and government and non-government organizations (NGOs) that were providing disaster relief. Working out of mobile vans primarily with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components and equipment, the team has created communication zones that support makeshift shelters at Wal-Mart, Kmart and Fred's parking lots, schools and hospitals. Additionally, the team has helped establish and supplement communications among the National Guard, local government offices and fire and police departments in an area recognized as Katrina's "ground zero."

"We learned during last year's tsunami relief efforts that reliable communications is vital to saving lives during a disaster," explained Chris Gunderson, executive director of W2COG. "We've been able to take the lessons learned then and put them to good use to support the relief efforts in Mississippi."

"In establishing simple Internet access and basic telephone services in an area that lost its entire infrastructure, the team has learned a number of valuable lessons about these technologies and their capabilities," said Brian Steckler, an NPS professor and the W2COG HFN project team leader. "From purely technical issues, such as the hasty integration of disparate applications, to basic logistical concerns such as transportation of equipment, the information we are collecting here will no doubt result in even faster responses in the future - both in the United States and overseas."

The NPS/W2COG and partner vendor collection of HFN field lab equipment will remain on site until a Federal Emergency Management Agency contracted team of private sector companies replaces the infrastructure, sometime in the next 30-60 days. Complete restoration of original telecommunications infrastructure is expected to take six to 12 months.

W2COG is an international, collaborative association accelerating the development and deployment of tools that support global security and peaceful commerce. W2COG provides a secure, open platform where professionals from government, industry and academia can test, validate and deliver practical netcentric applications.

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