Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Dedicated members of the Caltrans OASIS team.  Left to right from District 7 Maintenance: Dave Lawrence, Lillian Perez, Clem Collins and Fred Villanueva.  At right: Kirk Hemstalk from Headquarters.

by  Jeanne Bonfilio
Issue Date: 02/2008

High-Tech Satellites, Teamwork and Dedication Meet to Provide Emergency Communications Services

It sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie: the Operational Area Satellite Information System, also known as the OASIS.  What it really is – is a lifesaver – 24 hours per day, seven days per week -- morning, noon and midnight.

As partners with the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and managed by the Office of Radio Communications and the Division of Maintenance, a dedicated team of Caltrans staff manages and operates the OASIS 24 hours around the clock in the event of an emergency, when communications services are vitally needed.

Here’s how it works.  Housed in a portable trailer and ready to be towed to any area of California where assigned, the OASIS provides 24 banks of telephone lines using a satellite system and 24 electronic connections for computer equipment, including laptops. In addition, the OASIS system trailer also provides radio communications and live video streaming. 

There are three OASIS system trailers in the state – one in District 7 (Los Angeles and Ventura Counties); one in District 4 (San Francisco); and one in District 3 (Marysville) -- all standing ready, either alone or in combination, to respond at a moment’s notice when contacted by OES or Headquarters.  The OASIS system trailers have been utilized for various incidents and emergencies across California.

For example, during the recent Southern California wildfires, the OASIS in District 7 as well as District 4, were both deployed to the Harris fires in San Diego, where electricity and telephone services had both been lost.  The OASIS team set up its trailer in the city of Dulzura at a fire station command center adjacent to the National Guard, OES and Red Cross posts, where only back-up generators were being used.  And the Caltrans OASIS team sprung into action.  Members of the District 7 team include: Fred Villanueva, Maintenance Equipment Manager (Maintenance Area Superintendent); Clem Collins, Assistant Maintenance Equipment Manager (Maintenance Supervisor); Marvin Pruitt, West Region Area Superintendent (Maintenance Area Superintendent); Lillian Perez, Telecommunications Coordinator (Telecommunications Systems Analyst II); and Dave Lawrence, Assistant Stormwater Coordinator (Maintenance Area Superintendent).  All have regular duties and work with the OASIS team as needed.

Also on hand were the local police and fire departments, County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, local telephone companies and other agencies.  

District 7 OASIS Coordinator Fred Villanueva said, “As soon as we arrived on scene, we set up telephone lines and provided computer hook-ups for any kind of communications support that was needed in order to help the affected communities.”   This was only the second time Villanueva said that he had participated in a deployment of the OASIS.  “I was amazed to see the amount of teamwork, coordination and dedication by every agency present to help in this rural area of San Diego,” he added.  “Everyone on the Oasis team always works together with common goal of helping others.

Kirk Hemstalk, Headquarters OASIS Manager explains further.  “The normal procedure for these types of deployments is that the affected District’s Division Chief requests the services of the OASIS system trailers through Steve Takigawa, Chief of the Division of Maintenance,” Hemstalk said.  “The Program Manager for the Radio Office of Communications, Ferdinand Milanes, then orders the deployment.”

On October 29, 2007, Hemstalk was given a mission order from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services requesting two OASIS trailers to be staged in Southern California. All statewide Caltrans team members were put on alert. Two OASIS system trailers were deployed to the fire area.  They were staged and staffed with employees from Districts 3, 4, 7, and 11 (San Diego).

“OASIS Team members also stage monthly Readiness Training Drills where all three OASIS trailers are deployed and information is exchanged to better our operations,” added Hemstalk.  “In the last two years not one training session has been missed.  There are a lot of logistics to make these types of responses successful. Dedicated Caltrans Division of Maintenance and Division of Equipment employees that are able to respond at all hours of the day or night make it possible. I feel that the OASIS 7 Team members projected Caltrans Maintenance in a positive way to the public.”
Around the clock, whether morning, noon or midnight at the OASIS, Caltrans, the OES and emergency services partners, stand ready, willing and able to provide emergency communications services wherever and whenever needed to help others, all across California.

Members of the National Guard meet with the Caltrans OASIS team with one common goal: helping a community in need. A highway sign barely survived the smoke and flames of the recent fires near San Diego. These burnt remnants of what appears to be a shed or trailer are all that remain in this area of the Harris fire. Even this piece of heavy fire-fighting equipment was no match for the devastating blaze.