Averting Disaster in the Pacific [AT&T Government Issue]
by Hope Katz Gibbs
AT&T Government Issue
GUAM LOOKED LIKE A WAR ZONE on Dec. 16 when supertyphoon Paka struck the island. Wind gusts of 230 miles per hour destroyed 3,000 houses and left another 31, 000 severely damaged.
On December 17, President Clinton declared Guam a federal disaster area and dispatched the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the scene. In addition to providing more than 2,000 families with food and tents, FEMA needed to set up lines of communication between its disaster field office in Agana, Guam, and the FEMAMount Weather Emergency Assistance Center (MWEAC) located in Bluemont, Va.
The agency immediately turned to AT&T.
A partner in the federal Telecommunications Service Priority Program, AT&T’s National Information Systems Team is often called upon when disaster strikes.
“As soon as we got the call, we dropped everything we were doing,” says Mike Chalupka, the team’s technical manager in charge of the FEMA project. Chalupka knew FEMA would need data circuits to enable the transfer of critical data between its computers at MWEAC and Guam. So he and his team set out to install two T-1.5 circuits.
It was anything but a simple process, says Chalupka, who worked for four days and nights – even through Christmas -along with Project Manager Preston Thompson and fellow Technical Manager Ron Cecil.
The challenge was that Guam, located about 8,000 miles from Bluemont, is 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. As a result, the AT&T team had to work during the night so they could to speak to FEMA officials in Agana.
“These circuits provided FEMA connectivity to their nationwide LAN/WAN network, and the capability to make and receive voice calls in a cost-effective manner,” says Tim Ritter, acting chief of information technology at the Engineering Division/Disaster Response branch of FEMA.
Should another super-typhoon hit Guam, AT&T officials say they’ll be ready to help out again.