High tech keeps LSU AgCenter connected after Gustav

Rick M. Louque, Morgan, Johnny W.  |  9/11/2008 7:07:11 PM

Rick Louque, LSU AgCenter county agent in Assumption Parish, prepares to start the Mobile Commander satellite receiver at the AgCenter's Assumption Parish office following Hurricane Gustav. Louque said the key feature of the unit is that it is self-contained and mobile, so all that needs to be done to operate the unit is start the generator, extend the satellite receiver, start the mobile unit and connect computers for emergency communications. (Photo by Barbera Naquin. Click on photo for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 09/11/08

For the first time in the history of the LSU AgCenter, a powerful storm did not completely shut down communications in the hardest-hit areas.

Mike Carl, director for support, infrastructure and distance education in the LSU AgCenter’s information technology department, said the Tandberg Mobile Commander, a satellite communication receiver, allowed personnel in the Terrebonne-Lafourche area to stay connected after the storm.

“This was our first opportunity to the put the Mobile Commander into action in an emergency,” Carl said. “Earlier this summer we used the system to stream video from two of our field days, but after Hurricane Gustav, the commander allowed our people to connect to the Internet for information.”

The satellite equipment became the lifeline for communications after Hurricane Gustav plowed into South Louisiana Sept. 1, said Rick Louque, LSU AgCenter county agent in Assumption Parish.

“We set the equipment up in Raceland on Friday after the storm hit, and our employees from Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption parishes were able to come to the Raceland site, connect their computers and receive and send information,” Louque said.

With no power in the area, the Mobile Commander provided the link needed to report on crop damage and get information out to people in the area, he said.

Carl said the Mobile Commander was purchased after difficulties encountered following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“After Rita, we had a couple of offices destroyed, and personnel were displaced to temporary locations, but we couldn’t communicate with them and vice versa,” Carl explained. “After Gustav, we were able to set up the equipment and keep our people connected even through there was no power in their area.”

Louque said the key feature of the unit is that it is self-contained, portable and mobile.

“Pretty much all we had to do was start the generator, extend the satellite receiver, start the mobile unit and connect our laptop computers,” Louque said.

Since power has been restored to most of the affected area, the unit has now been moved to the LSU AgCenter office in Assumption Parish where it can be used by AgCenter personnel who are still without power.

During the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, the LSU AgCenter borrowed satellite equipment from Texas A&M and Indiana universities in order to provide data and voice connectivity, Carl said.

“We learned from that experience that we needed to be prepared the next time we needed to provide connectivity for our people in the field,” he said.

For further information on the LSU AgCenter and its programs, visit the Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contacts: Mike Carl at (225) 578-2769 or mcarl@agcenter.lsu.edu

Rick Louque at (985) 369-6386 or rlouque@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

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