GATR Ball

How an inflatable can impact a disaster response effort

flightwatch_GATR-ballIt looks like an eight-foot beach ball. But when a disaster strikes—like an earthquake or typhoon— this inflatable device is much handier than its simpler cousin.

In fact, it can be a game changer.

When a major disaster occurs, like Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or the 2010 Haiti earthquake, communications are one of the first things disrupted. A loss of telephone and Internet access can cause the aftermath following a disaster to go from bad to worse.

That’s where the GATR (Ground Antenna Transmitter and Receiver) comes in. It is essentially a portable, inflatable satellite dish. Many MAF field programs use rigid satellite dishes to provide Internet access in remote areas. The problem with a rigid dish is that it is not easily transportable. The GATR is stored in three small footlockers and can be deployed around the world and quickly assembled at a moment’s notice.

Thanks to very generous donations from Wickenburg Bible Fellowship in Wickenburg, Arizona, and GATR Technologies, the company that makes this product of the same name, MAF now has a GATR, which is stored at headquarters and ready to be sent to a disaster site as the need arises.

In layman’s terms, when the GATR is inflated, a fabric stretches across the inside of the ball. This fabric serves as the dish that sends and receives the signal from an orbital satellite. Electronics that accompany the ball turn that signal into usable Internet access. And it can be set up virtually anywhere, in about 30 minutes.

“The great thing is that we could provide 100 people with Internet access,” said Laura Hibberd, a member of the MAF Disaster Response team. That means communications abilities for MAF but also the capacity to enable the efforts of partners like Food for the Hungry International, Samaritan’s Purse, and Baptist Global Response. “It is huge to be able to offer that to partners in a disaster response situation.”

Most importantly, the GATR is another way MAF can share Christ’s love with people in need.

“The GATR allows MAF to be one of the first on the scene to reenable communications,” said Laura, “and that is a great help for victims and responders.”

Read the full FlightWatch 2015, Vol. 3

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