After Harvey and before Irma, volunteers stand by in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A team of volunteers is standing by in Birmingham, getting ready to head to Florida to aid the Red Cross after Hurricane Irma strikes.

Every member of the team is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and they’re traveling in a on-of-a-kind vehicle that will help power the relief effort.

The MOVE Community Outreach truck was designed by a team of engineers, led by an engineering professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Equipped with supplies, solar panels, a 10-kilowatt generator, its own internet connection and a satellite television setup, the truck is mostly self-sustaining.

The MOVE volunteers partner with the Red Cross, providing their volunteers a fully-powered office space to base communications and coordinate relief efforts. MOVE also supplies Red Cross volunteers in the field with power banks for their cell phones, as the truck can charge up to 120 power banks at once.

Grayson Randall, a software engineer by trade, drives the truck.

He said the idea for the MOVE truck came after the IEEE spoke with survivors of hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

“They were unable to communicate with anybody,” Randall said. “They didn’t know how long the event was going to last, how long they’d be out of power, whether they should stay in place or move, and that was a serious concern.”

The truck is parked on UAB’s campus for now, so that Randall and his fellow volunteers can rest, and maintain and stock the truck.

Randall drove the truck from Houston, where he was helping with the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. He said he would likely still be there, had Hurricane Irma not posed such an imminent threat to Florida.

“When we go to a new facility, or a new disaster, we have to set up very quickly, and it’s a matter of solving a lot of problems very rapidly,” Randall said. “We have a lot of tools on this truck that allow us to set up and make quick decisions, and configure networks and technology that will assist the people at that scene.”

The MOVE truck is staffed entirely by volunteers, and funded entirely by donations.

To learn more or donate, visit the IEEE website.

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