Drew Pearson, director of Dare County’s Department of Emergency Management, shows members of the Avon Volunteer Fire Department how to operate the CRD. Photo by Jack Danz.

Drew Pearson and James Wooten, two members of Dare County Emergency Management, delivered a Compact Rapid Deployable (CRD) device to the Avon Volunteer Fire Department (AVFD) on Tuesday, March 5.

The CRDs will allow Hatteras Island fire stations to provide access to Dare County’s 911 Communication Center when phone service is down. They will also allow firefighters and emergency responders to connect to WiFi when power is out.

Dare County’s Department of Emergency Management applied for a Capacity Building Competitive Grant from North Carolina last year and was awarded $420,000 to buy five CRDs. The state provided an additional CRD.

Photo by Jack Danz.

“The six units can cover almost all of the populated areas on Hatteras Island,” said Pearson, the director of Dare County Emergency Management.

The CRDs have an operating range of two miles. Two CRDs are in the Tri-Villages, one in Avon, one in Buxton, one in Frisco, and one in Hatteras.

When phone service goes down, firefighters are able to set up the CRDs, which have satellite dishes and cellular antennas on a 15-foot extendable fiberglass pole, in 20 or 30 minutes to restore 911 calls.

When phone service went down before CRDs, emergency response time was hindered, because callers could not reach Dare County’s 911 Communication Center.

“Being able to restore 911 within 30 minutes of an outage, it changes everything,” said Frankie Hopkins, the chief of AVFD.

On Dec. 18, 2023, internet service, cell service, and landline service was affected on Ocracoke and southern Hatteras Island due to a cut cable near Buxton, the Island Free Press reported. Technicians were not able to access the damaged cable because of flooding in the area, which impeded repairs.

Two communications outages occurred on Hatteras Island and Ocracoke in 2022 and another two occurred in 2023, Island Free Press reported.

The CRDs’ internal battery will last for two to three hours, but the units can also be plugged into an outlet or truck or run off of a generator to increase operating time.

Photo by Avon Volunteer Fire Department

The CRDs are weatherproof, so they can work during rainstorms. But they cannot work in winds above 40 miles per hour. They will be used if fiber optic cables are cut or after a hurricane or storm, Pearson said.

The units have their own air conditioning and heating, which allows them to work from -22 degrees to 122 degrees.

The CRDs can only be used for emergency calls, not personal calls.

The Hatteras Island Community Emergency Response Team, which formed after Hurricane Irene in 2011, uses the Starlink system to provide public calls and internet access, Island Free Press reported.

The CRDs are built by Rescue42 and AT&T, but any phone carrier is able to connect to the units.

Rescue42 started in California when firefighters came up with a better design for Jaws Of Life after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. The company began working on CRDs in 2009, according to the company’s website.

The CRDs will also help Currituck and Ocracoke in the event of an emergency, because the units are portable and do not need a trailer, only a special hitch.

“We’ll help anyone who needs it without hurting ourselves,” Pearson said.

The post Dare County Emergency Management improves 911 access on Hatteras Island appeared first on Island Free Press.

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