IEEE’s Natural Disaster Relief Program Expanding to India, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico

The initiative provides affected areas with power, phone service, and the Internet

3 min read

Joanna Goodrich is the associate editor of The Institute

Photo of IEEE MOVE truck.
The IEEE MOVE truck used to provide U.S. communities with power, phone service, and Internet access in areas of widespread outages due to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires.
Photo: IEEE MOVE

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, 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 100 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—and radios for communications.

The IEEE volunteers involved with the program often coordinate their efforts with the American Red Cross.

Because of the rough terrain and the nature of natural disasters in the 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 to meet the needs of each area.

“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 founder of software developer Ascot Technologies in Cary, N.C., where she is president and CEO.

For more information on the international IEEE MOVE program, contact Mike Wilson, senior program manager at MOVE International at IEEE.

Photo of IEEE MOVE truck and a Red Cross truckThe IEEE MOVE initiative often coordinates its efforts with the American Red Cross.Photo: IEEE MOVE

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 Region 3, was built by a company that specializes in such vehicles.

Since IEEE MOVE’s debut in 2016, the truck has been deployed 20 times, 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. Details on all past disaster responses are available on the IEEE MOVE website.

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.

IEEE MOVE is sponsored by IEEE-USA and receives funding from donations to the IEEE Foundation. You can support the program and its expansion efforts.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

This article was updated on 8 May, 2021.

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