Lost in the Flood

Tim Karney on February 10, 2017, 4:39 am

"Out of 261 homes in the community, 234 were severely damaged and many of those must be destroyed. Only six homes in Nichols were undamaged. All the town’s 23 businesses were under water and only four have partially reopened. All the town’s six churches were under water. In addition, 400 vehicles were damaged or destroyed “, said Mayor Battle.

“You never realize what you don’t have until it is not there anymore. We take communications for granted but in a disaster, as large as the one we experienced in Hurricane Matthew, you can lose all your normal channels of communication very fast. Our radios worked only part of the time. The flooding was so bad the emergency generators for the cell towers around us could not be refueled so we lost those. We were almost completely without communications for four to five days until the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) brought in a Plum Case® by helicopter and set it up for us.”

SCEMD used a single Plum Case® Extended to reach out beyond the disabled cellular towers in the area. It was able to deliver both high-speed data and voice capability to the emergency response team at the Nichols City Hall. The SCEMD team connected both the Voice Over IP phone system (VOIP) and the City Hall computer servers directly into the Plum Case®. Within minutes, communications were established with state, county, and federal response partners.

“Each Plum Case® is a complete, self-powered, self-contained, cellular wireless network solution.” said Lee Williams, Director of Research and Development at Plum Laboratories, LLC. “Because it can reach out many miles beyond the reach of other devices to acquire a useable, high speed cellular signal, it can reduce, or even replace the need to use extremely expensive satellite communications.”

The Plum Case® Extended used at the Nichols City Hall has two separate cellular gateways for dual path diversity in case one carrier is unavailable. According to Williams, “It can be easily reconfigured for two domestic carriers, or one domestic and one international carrier for global communications capability.”

Another advantage of the Plum Case Extended® is that it has four separate SSIDs so that different departments or agencies can each have their own secure networks for exceptional security. “For example, if the state police have a Plum Case® onsite, and a fire department, or federal agency shows up, they can assign them to one of the four secure networks."

Deployment is incredibly easy.

“All you have to do to deploy the Plum Case® is to attach the lead to the power bank enclosed in the Plum Case® and flip the switch. Within five minutes, the cellular gateways in the case run through their cycles and acquire the cellular signals. Then you simply give each authorized user the password to the appropriate network. They input the password into their smartphone, tablet, or laptop and they have high speed data and voice communications.” says Williams. “There is no training requirement for the users.”  

The power bank enclosed in the Plum Case® Extended will power the device for 16 to 48 hours without recharging and can provide access for up to 128 simultaneous users. Another version of the Plum Case, the Plum Case® Enterprise can handle up to 256 simultaneous users for up to five days.

In a disaster, you may need to redeploy to a new location and quickly establish communications capability. The Plum Case® Extended weighs less than 25 pounds and all its components are inside a Mil Spec case. The antennas inside the case are molecularly bonded to the case. This makes the Plum Case® so rugged it can be dropped sixty feet from a helicopter and still operate.

“Plum Cases® have been used by response teams in a wide variety of incidents.” Says Williams. “Floods, wild fires, fast-water rescues, and pipeline breaks are just a few of the recent deployments where Plum Cases® were the only available means of communications. The feedback we have received from the responders in these incidents has been tremendous. It is rapidly becoming a key enabling technology for emergency response organizations.

According to Mayor Battle, “Thanks to the Plum Case®, we were able to fully restore our communications to manage our rescue and recovery efforts. Without it, we would have been severely restricted in coordinating our efforts with our County, state, and federal response partners.”

For more information on Plum Laboratories and its entire line of continuity of operations and remote access solutions, visit www.plumlaboratories.com.

Organizations interested in testing a Plum Case® should contact John Deering, head technical advisor at jdeering@plumcases.com or call him at (615) 484-7255.


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