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NERV: The Brain Behind Networked Disaster Response at Cisco

Hurricane season is upon us, and storms have already begun to harass the Gulf Coast with torrential rains and violent winds. The threat of such a storm doesn’t cross my mind as I sit in my cubicle in San Jose, enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned office and a hot cup of coffee on my desk. But behind building J on Cisco’s San Jose campus, Rakesh Bharania and the Cisco Tactical Operations (TacOps) team are on 24/7 alert, ready to respond the moment an earthquake strikes or a tornado touches down anywhere in the world.

I had the privilege of visiting Rakesh and his team this week, getting a behind-the-scenes look at Cisco’s investment in using networking technology to help those in need when disaster hits.

After disaster strikes, the TacOps team can deploy within 72 hours – the most critical stage of a response.  When a disaster cripples communications systems, the TacOps team can establish satellite-based communications  so first responders, government agencies, and relief organizations can coordinate relief efforts and speed delivery of food, water, shelter, and medical care to those affected.

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Collaboration Notes from Cisco Live: Tuesday Recap

May 21, 2014 at 12:51 am PST

There’s an advantage to having events in different buildings of the Moscone Center. You get to go outside and enjoy the great weather. Just watch out for the birds in Yerba Buena Gardens once things quiet down a bit – I got dive-bombed by an avian aviator. 

Enough about me. What was up with Collaboration on Tuesday? Plenty.

Rowan Trollope and Hans Hwang closed out the afternoon sessions with the Collaboration Technology Keynote, providing a closer look at the new desktop collaboration experiences, including the DX80, DX70, and Collaboration Meeting Rooms. Wearing bright red Converse high-tops, Rowan promised a continued focus on simplicity: “Everything you see going forward is going to be easy to use.” The laminated “how to use this device” cards are history.

The DX80 demo highlighted the simplicity, clean industrial design, and the directional “what you see is what you hear” microphones (read: no more barking dogs or noisy office neighbors in the background of calls). You know the design is new and different when the room applauds after a quick tour of the back of the unit – or the “other front” as the designers call it.

In the Collaboration Meeting Room demo, Rowan showed how easily callers on all sorts of different platforms and devices can connect to a video conference call just by connecting via the host’s meeting-room URL: three-screen immersive telepresence, laptop with a web browser, PC with Lync, and a DX80 all joined the call.

Earlier in the day, the technology keynote kicked off with a great video about the Bay Bridge, which also happens to be the world’s largest LED sculpture – and supported by a Cisco network infrastructure. Read More »

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#CiscoChampion Radio S1|Ep9 Cisco TACOPS

#CiscoChampion Radio is a podcast series by Cisco Champions as technologists, hosted by Cisco’s Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja). This week we’re talking about Cisco TACOPS (@CiscoTACOPS) which connects the unconnected in the middle of crisis, anywhere in the world.

Listen to the Podcastcisco_champions BADGE_200x200

Cisco Subject Matter Expert: Rakesh Bharania, Network Consulting Engineer on TACOPS Team (@densaer)
Cisco Champion: Jonathan Davis, Network Planning Analyst (@subnetwork)

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Hurricane Isaac, We’re Ready.

I moved down to D’Iberville, MS February of 2005.  A quaint up and coming starter community just North of Biloxi, MS.  I remember, while working for the State Police, taking my lunch to the end of a pier that was near by our office, sitting on the edge and looking out over the water.  I enjoyed the peace, especially since it wasn’t even two years ago before that I was in Afghanistan looking forward to holding my 6 month old daughter that I spent 5 days with before deploying.  I found this pretty little 4/2 split plan home less than a mile “as the crow flies” from the beach that August.  It was humble, but I knew it would be a good place to start my life over.  I remember watching and listening about some storm that month out in the middle of no where, thinking to myself, “I better hurry and close on that house otherwise I will not be able to get Home Owners Insurance.”  Well, my house luckily enough was not in a flood zone, it was the suckers across the street, so I didn’t need to pay the extra insurance at closing.  I closed August 25, 2005.  Looking back, it’s funny to think how I was barely able to get all of my belongings moved into the house before I had to board up and head for higher ground.  Little did I know at the time that the one night I spent in the house would be the last night.  I packed an over night bag, locked the door, and left.

Hurricane Katrina before landfall, Category 5

Intense Hurricane Katrina video of 28 feet of storm surge.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  She bolstered swells upwards of 30ft and reeked havoc throughout the Mississippi Coast Line with her devastation physically noticed over 160 miles inland to the heart of Mississippi, Jackson.  She claimed nearly 1900 lives, displaced more than 700,000 people (more than the Dust Bowl Migration of the Great Depression) and cost our country nearly $125 Billion Dollars in property damage and insurance pay outs.  To this day, there are still nearly 700 missing persons from that infamous day 7 years ago.

In Mississippi alone, over 200 lives were taken, 67 missing persons, and 5 still yet to be identified.  Over 65,000 homes were destroyed, including one that sat at 10229 Cottage Court Cove, D’Iberville, MS 39540, my home.  My neighborhood went under 15ft of water with about 7ft sitting inside my home before residing.  I remember looking through the portal of the front door, seeing the damage, the water line, the mud, everything.  I didn’t even unlock the door.  I did what I knew to do:  Report for duty.

I reported to the Emergency Operation Center in Gulfport, MS, linked up with the Director of the Mississippi Crime Laboratory, Sam Howell, and conducted Search and Recovery efforts with the Harrison County Coroner’s Office.  Search and Rescue teams would identify remains and our team would recover those remains and transport them back to the “Reefer Trucks” (Refrigerated Tractor Trailers) parked outside one of the funeral homes in Gulfport, MS.  We had recovery teams mobilized throughout the Gulf Coast.  My area of responsibility was Biloxi, MS.

 
 
Conditions were terrible.  I slept on a slab the first night across from the EOC.  Our communications were non-existent, the only service provider available was Cell South, now called C-Spire.  Our collaboration across the board with mobilized agency’s from law enforcement volunteers to the MS National Guard was decayed.  It was analogue and archaic.  There were next to no communications capabilities while we were deployed to our AOs.  Each team had to be internally self sufficient, bringing everything we needed with us that morning.  Response was slow, the people were restless, and resources were coming close to depleting.  We weren’t ready.
 

Biloxi, MS

Now it’s 2012.  On the eve of the Anniversary of one of the most catastrophic natural disasters of our time, Hurricane Isaac will eerily make landfall on this momentous day 7 years later.  At this point, as I listen to the News from the other room, Isaac has increased to a Category I.  The Army National Guard has already mobilized, the Joint Information Center (JIC) was deployed two days ago and is set up for distribution D+1.  The stage is set for one of the quickest responses that the state of Mississippi has to offer with every available hand poised and ready.  I myself, a Nationally Registered EMT-B, am also ready to provide assistance if need be.  Now, we are ready.

In the short time I have worked for Cisco, I have been part of an amazing team that has relentlessly worked to bring attention to Cisco’s technology in order to aid and assist First Responders so that they may seamlessly do what they do best:  Serve.  With Cisco’s TacOps team and NERV mobile command center those who respond will have at their finger tips what they need to provide assistance to the public.

Today, we are ready.

This was difficult for me to write and share.  As you finish reading this, please give a moment of silence for those that Hurricane Katrina claimed and their families.

Humbly Yours,

Mark Rogers

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