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The exercise included rapid cargo loading and unloading, medical transports and, on Tuesday, the 103rd dropped packages of what could have been

This week, FEMA’s Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) program participated in rapid air mobility response exercise. As a long-time FEMA employee, I had numerous opportunities to work along side MERS staff during disaster deployments and was always impressed by their work ethic, knowledge, and capabilities. Many of the MERS staff are veterans, who learned the skills they use in supporting MERS operations from their time in the military.

FEMA’s MERS detachments provide mobile telecommunications, life support, logistics, operational support and power generation during presidentially declared emergencies and disasters required for the on-site management of disaster response activities. MERS’ primary function in disaster response operations involves communications support. MERS can deliver voice, data, and video services in support of the response officials. They employ satellite, terrestrial, land mobile radio, and line-of-sight transmission systems to deliver communications support for response and recovery operations.

Though their primary function is to support domestic disaster incidents, their all-hazard capabilities have led to some unconventional uses such as supporting the 2003 federal response to the Columbia space shuttle explosion over Texas and Louisiana. They have also been used, on a limited basis, to support international operations such as re-establishing communications between the U.S. embassy in Haiti and Washington following the 2010 earthquake.

If you are interested in learning more about FEMA’s disaster communication program, this PowerPoint presentation provides a excellent overview.

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