On October 29, Hurricane Sandy, a late season post-tropical cyclone, slammed into the East Coast of the United States, leaving in her wake, a trail of devastation. First Responders throughout the nation were called on to provide assistance to the affected areas. The storm resulted in severe flooding and by November 1, 4.7 million people in 15 states were left without power. The need for strategic support was essential, especially in the densely populated areas of New York City and New Jersey. Dustin Ray, a program financial analyst with Harris, also serves in the Army National Guard and was called in to help coordinate the recovery effort immediately following the Hurricane.
"We were brought in on orders to respond to Hurricane Sandy for a few weeks in November. We were asked to go down to New York City, and since we live in New York State, we felt that it was important for us to respond to and help out our fellow New Yorkers," said Dustin.
With over 19 years in the Army National Guard, Dustin is an experienced Major and acted as a Field Operations Officer during the mission. As a lead coordinator for the Guard's operations, Dustin helped facilitate concerted efforts between multiple agencies, which included providing power for the November elections, assisting the utility companies restore power throughout the region, debris removal, and welfare checks.
"The power lines were down all over the place with live wires everywhere. There were issues with people getting injured after coming in contact with these, so we were tasked with helping to secure them and keeping people out of harm's way," said Dustin. "At one point we were driving and found a large boat in the road and saw that several homes had been completely washed away. We could see just how high the water had been; it was really devastating."
Dustin had the opportunity to use Harris technology in the field, while carrying out operations with the Army National Guard. Before Sandy made landfall, the New York State Department of Homeland Security submitted multiple orders to Harris for 100 Unity XG-100P multiband portable land mobile radios. The fulfillment of these orders proved to be integral, as effective communication had emerged as a significant challenge to the execution of relief strategies. Before the radios were provided, soldiers were forced to use cell phones to keep connected while performing search and rescue missions.
"Our communication assets were not adequate, so people had to use cell phones quite a bit," said Dustin. "Missions required soldiers to be out there for long periods of time and a cell phone battery only lasts so long." Once the batteries had failed, soldiers no longer had the ability to report back to leadership or each other. By obtaining the radios provided by the Public Safety and Professional Communications (PSPC), the National Guard found a significant improvement in their communication capabilities. "We were able to respond quicker to issues and more effectively coordinate with state and federal agencies. It was great to see how big of an impact the Harris radios made in providing support for the Hurricane relief."
While in New York, Dustin saw firsthand the difficult situations facing the population. As unfortunate as this was, he was also privileged to witness the resolve and strength of the community. "People were checking up on each other and they would look to make sure they were okay. There were many elderly people, and we often saw that neighbors had already gone in and checked on these people, ensuring they had something to eat or making sure they were warm. People were willing to give up their own things to help each other. It was great to see the community come together to take care of an aging population," said Dustin. People were also willing to show their appreciation to the soldiers during the mission. "Residents were very supportive of what we were doing and always making sure our soldiers were taken care of, often with a cup of hot coffee, as the weather was very cold."
That effort was further supported by the people at Harris, by stepping up and providing communication solutions during a time of urgent need. "The radios provided by the PSPC team were a game changer. They allowed missions to be completed quicker, faster, and more efficiently. It was great to see how well the radios worked – there was nothing else out there that could have worked better."