The Charlottesville, Va., Fire Department has deployed its communications interoperability unit to help restore communications in the areas affected by hurricane Katrina. Initially, the department was directed to deploy its equipment to a Veterans Administration medical center in Jackson, Miss., to provide Internet access to critical patient records for the hospital.

After completing its mission at the Veterans Administration medical center, the interoperability unit was directed to Gulfport, La. As of this writing, the interoperability unit is being deployed to Gulfport, La. after reporting into Virginia's emergency management office for another assignment, Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Warner said.

The fire department's interoperability unit which is composed of an Incident Commander Radio Interface connected to a satellite and installed inside a sport utility vehicle, takes 10 minutes to connect all the pieces and make operational and takes five minutes to learn how to use, he said.

Incident Commander's Radio Interface, which is an integral part of the Charlottesville Fire Department's interoperability unit, includes five ports that enable different radio systems to communicate with one another as well as providing for underground communications.

The equipment may be used for emergency service support or it may simply serve as a means for people to communicate with loved ones. "We'll do whatever we need to do to help the citizens of these communities," Werner said.

In addition to the ICRI being deployed by the Charlottesville, Va., Fire Department, Communications-Applied Technology has provided additional ICRI units and communications equipment that can be deployed in other areas if needed.