Search for Hannah Graham requires communication innovation

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WASHINGTON — It’s now more than three weeks since University of Virginia student Hannah Graham disappeared, but searchers are not giving up. They will be out again on Wednesday.

Search coordinator Mark Eggeman, with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, tells WTOP they’re still searching an 8-mile radius around downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, where the Alexandria woman was last seen.

He says the search is about 75 to 80 percent complete. On Tuesday, Eggeman said there were 55 searchers out, including 12 officers from Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control.

On Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, a massive community search involving more than 1,000 volunteers required the creation of an entire temporary communications system. Local emergency channels would have been overwhelmed by all of the radio communications that the search required.

The system was put in place by a unique radio communications team.

“We can set up a communication system in the middle of nowhere or wherever we are needed,” says Lt. Wes Rogers, with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. He’s part of the radio team called Virginia Communications Cache.

There are five such cache teams across the Virginia. They can be deployed anywhere in Virginia and on this weekend they worked together. Rogers is the program manager for the Fairfax team. The others are in Harrisonburg/Rockingham, Montgomery County, Lunenburg and Chesapeake.

The separate Virginia Communications Cache system allowed Charlottesville’s local emergency system to continue day-to-day emergency operations without being overtaxed.

Rogers says during the two-day community search, 15 to 20 members helped out in Charlottesville, setting up and maintaining repeaters, working as radio operators and answering the radios for the command and general staff for the search teams.

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