THE INSTITUTE After five years of providing U.S. communities with power, phone service, and Internet access in areas of widespread outages due to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, the IEEE MOVE (Mobile Outreach VEhicle) program is expanding to other countries.
IEEE volunteers are busy setting up the emergency-relief and community-outreach program in India, Jamaica, Pakistan, and Turkey, as well as in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.
The MOVE truck is equipped with satellite Internet access, IP phone service, and the ability to charge up to 120 cellphone batteries simultaneously. The vehicle has a generator as well as three solar panels that sit on the roof. It also has a mobile television—for tracking storms—connected via a small receiver on the roof.
The IEEE volunteers involved with the program often coordinate their efforts with the American Red Cross.
Because of the anticipated rough terrain and the nature of natural disasters in the five new areas, a MOVE truck cannot be used there, IEEE MOVE founder Mary Ellen Randall says. Instead, portable communications and power equipment are being designed by IEEE volunteers in partnership with the Red Cross to meet the needs of each area. The modular units will be used interchangeably based on the type of disaster, Randall says.
“The equipment will be compact so people can pick it up and put it in the back of a pickup truck or SUV,” says Randall, an IEEE Fellow. “We are developing multiple versions of the modular equipment that can be used, depending on the circumstance.” Randall is the cofounder of software developer Ascot Technologies in Cary, N.C., where she is president and CEO.
Different types of power sources and communication tools, such as radio or satellite, would be needed, Randall says. The type of equipment needed for a monsoon would differ from what a hurricane would demand, for example, she says. A solar-powered source wouldn’t necessarily work after a monsoon, she says, because of heavy cloud cover. Volunteers are developing prototypes of the equipment to test.
THE PROGRAM’S HISTORY
IEEE volunteers in the United States spend weeks at a time helping communities after they have been hit by a natural disaster. The MOVE truck, designed by IEEE members from Region3, was built by a company that specializes in such vehicles.
Since IEEE MOVE’s debut in 2016, the truck has been deployed 20times, including recently during a tornado that touched down in Brunswick County, N.C.; when Hurricane Delta struck parts of Louisiana; and when Hurricane Sally battered areas near Pensacola, Fla.
When not deployed for such events, volunteers take the vehicle to schools and science fairs to educate students and other community members about ways technology can help people during disasters. Randall estimates that volunteers have engaged more than 200,000 people through the community outreach.
“Our volunteers are always ready to go,” David Iams,IEEE-USA staff coordinator for IEEE MOVE, said in a news release about the five-year anniversary. “Whether it’s to provide relief after a tornado or hurricane, or to help teach and inspire the next generation of engineers, they always answer the call.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped Randall and other volunteers from continuing their work. IEEE MOVE, in fact, has increased its volunteer roster in the United States and has trained the new recruits how to operate the truck. The training has been conducted virtually because of the pandemic.
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