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- Original Message -
From: Mike Healy [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To: WISPA General List firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2005 7:26 AM
Subject: [WISPA] Tech Samaritans
Found this in the Washington Post this morning. Thought y'all
would be interested in seeing it.
You guys are doing great things down there. I only wish I had the means to
be able to join you. I had hoped to get a bunch of surplus PCs to send to
you but due to my employer being in bankruptcy we aren't able to do that.
Wireless Networks Give Voice To Evacuees*
By Arshad Mohammed
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005; A15
Hurricane Katrina survivor Caprice Butler had been at a church shelter in
rural northeastern Louisiana for nearly a week when she finally heard her
husband's voice on an Internet phone running on an improvised wireless
I was just overjoyed, she said yesterday, tearing up as she spoke
outside the church in the farming town of Mangham, about 200 miles from
her flooded New Orleans home. Words can't explain how I felt.
If the Butlers manage to reunite this weekend, as they hope, it will be
because of a band of volunteer techies who are stitching together wireless
networks at shelters across northeastern Louisiana using radio
transmitters mounted on such items as a grain silo and a water tower.
With few reliable communications systems in place, people and companies
from around the country are converging on the region to create improvised
networks that give survivors and emergency personnel ways to talk and
While local telephone and wireless networks are slowly coming back, they
remain spotty or nonexistent in some places, and fire, police and other
rescue personnel have complained about the lack of a unified emergency
communications system. To meet the needs of evacuees in Jackson, Miss.,
Dulles-based America Online has parked an 18-wheel truck at the
Mississippi State Fairgrounds, a major shelter, with a satellite dish on
top and 20 computers with Internet access inside. At the Houston
Astrodome, volunteers have obtained a Federal Communications Commission
license to set up a low-power radio station and are now struggling to get
permission from local officials to broadcast to evacuees inside the
F4W, a Lake Mary, Fla., company, is under government contract to provide
Internet phones and online access to Coast Guard officers cleaning up oil
spills, using a portable satellite dish and handsets often deployed in
The network at Mangham Baptist Church was the brainchild of Mac Dearman, a
wireless Internet service provider who was driving past the church last
week when he saw a group of parked cars, realized they were people who had
fled the hurricane and set about providing relief, including food,
clothing and online access.
Dearman hooked up a radio transmitter near the church and linked that to a
voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone and a computer, and suddenly
the dozens of people taking refuge at the church had the ability to reach
out to the outside world.
Mostly, they are searching for loved ones and filling out Federal
Emergency Management Agency forms to get disaster aid.
They just call from shelter to shelter to shelter looking for their kids
or for their daddies or their brothers because they got separated, and
they are just finding each other in the last few days, Dearman said,
adding that people were often overwhelmed when they connected.
They cried big tears, hugged my neck, shook my hand and patted me on the
back. You'd have thought I was really giving them something that cost a
lot of money, he added.
Dearman is working entirely with donated labor and equipment.
People from as far afield as Nebraska, Missouri and Indiana are camped out
in his house, coordinating equipment deliveries, searching for shelters
that need service, and then sending out volunteers to climb towers to hook
up radio antennas and set up the networks.
We are basically completely bypassing the phone system, said Matt Larsen
of Scottsbluff, Neb., who said he was perched on a bar stool with his
laptop at Dearman's kitchen counter.
Dearman estimated that he had run wireless links to about a dozen shelters
near his home base of Rayville, La., but only about half were up and
running because he had run out of equipment.
He was expecting fresh donations of secondhand computers, VoIP