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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
November/December 2010

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State-of-the-art power and communications unit ready for
disaster deployment

Should TDCJ face a major emergency, the Information Technology Department (ITD) is ready to respond by deploying its new, state-of-the-art power and communications unit.

The Mobile Emergency Response Command (MERC) trailer, purchased with a Public Safety Interoperable Communications grant from the federal Department of Commerce, can be used for communications emergencies, escapes, unit outages, or TDCJ functions or exercise requiring established communications. It is equipped with a 42-foot mast for radio communications, which includes 800 MHz, UHF and VHF radios. The trailer also has two Voice over Internet Protocol telephones and satellite access.

Communications staff is currently working to set up a Virtual Private Network tunnel that will also allow TDCJ users access to Lotus Notes and mainframe systems. The MERC is also equipped with a 12kw diesel generator and a 30-gallon fuel tank that allows the trailer to run between three and five days without refueling.

Once the mast has been deployed and the satellite has synced up with the network, the MERC provides voice, data and radio communications to staff.

The MERC is equipped with phones that are connected to the voice network via satellite link. The dial tone is located in Irving, Texas, and a redundant server is located in Englewood, Colorado, enabling TDCJ to make and receive phone communications during a disaster response regardless of the local network conditions.

Should TDCJ add more MERC trailers, they can be connected together using the satellite and radio networks. Radio networks communication can be bridged together allowing TDCJ to expand its radio coverage area and provide better service to employees responding to the disaster. Future recommendations include power distribution box and cable, video surveillance camera, additional phones, outdoor-rated wireless access point, interoperability for phone and radio, and expanded radio coverage.

Joe Miles, ITD assistant director for Communications and Networks, is pleased with the acquisition of the MERC.

“This is a great win for ITD and TDCJ to have state-of-the-art communications equipment readily available during emergency situations,” he said.

 

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in brief

 

Tulia Transfer Facility CO V Robert M. Vaughn was recently recognized with the Silver Presidential Service Award for volunteering more than 280 hours of community service to Swisher County. Vaughn, an 18-year TDCJ veteran, was honored for his volunteer work with the Swisher County Computer Lab in Tulia, where he monitors all users to ensure compliance with lab rules. He also provides instruction in the use of basic software programs and helps users access Internet websites. The President’s Volunteer Service Award was created in 2002 to recognize Americans who make a sustained commitment to volunteer service. Bronze, silver and gold awards are presented to individuals based on the number of hours volunteered.

 

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