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Pease firm lends high-tech data collection help

PORTSMOUTH - U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen made a special visit to Pease-based Global Relief Technologies on Friday to praise the company as they prepare to head off to Haiti on Monday to lend their high-tech data collection services to those working amid the rubble and chaos of a nation reeling in the wake of a massive earthquake.

Global Relief Technologies (GRT) may be a small business, but they are a leader in the field of crisis management and data collection having supported both military and humanitarian missions around the world.

The company offers an integrated system that uses hand-held electronic devices to help field workers collect and analyze "mission-critical" field data in real-time using satellites that help transfer information to a central command location.

GRT CEO Michael Gray said his company has been in contact with the Navy and Marines about how they might be of assistance and called helping in Haiti the exact reason he formed the company five years ago.

"We are very excited to go ... this is what it's all about," Gray said.

GRT will be sending personnel and numerous pieces of equipment to Haiti with the initial goal being to provide assistance to non-governmental relief agencies such as Helping Hands for Haiti, a medical relief organization, and the New England Brace Company - a New Hampshire company that specializes in the care of amputees and other debilitating injuries requiring external orthotic braces and prosthetic devices.

GRT and the New England Brace Company will combine to form a technical and medical relief team to assist in taking a census of all amputees as a first step toward providing medical treatment and rehabilitation in the months ahead.

However, company leaders say their hand-held devices will likely help in several ways as they allow relief workers to mark the location, age, injury and other critical data with photos.

All of the information will be sent to a control center in New Hampshire so that work on fitting a prosthetic to the amputee can begin immediately.

Gray said he hopes GRT's services will help in what is a central mission of getting ahead of disease before a potential epidemic hits the island nation.

New England Brace Company employee Dennis Acton is among those heading to Haiti with GRT team members and he said he doesn't know what to expect considering estimates that indicate upward of 250,000 were injured in the earthquake.

"We haven't coordinated this with the United Nations. We are stepping up and doing this and GRT is making it possible," Acton said.

Friday's visit saw Shaheen touring the GRT headquarters and praising the group for offering their assistance.

"It's nice to be able to showcase a New Hampshire company," Shaheen said.

Shaheen has proposed legislation to fund the type of technology employed by GRT to allow federal relief workers access to the best tools and resources possible to save lives and alleviate suffering following natural disasters.

She stressed the importance of systems that "standardize" data collection in the field and Gray noted the importance of ditching tradition "paper and pencil" techniques for hand-held devices that can transmit real-time data and use satellites to target problem areas.

Gray noted their electronic clipboard devices can be powered with a car-charger or small solar device if their batteries get low and electricity is not available.

GRT employees could be seen tracking the situation in Haiti on Friday from their command center in Pease, which uses satellite imagery to track damage and monitor the current relief efforts.

GRT personnel and equipment will head out to Haiti on Monday thanks to the help of Thomas Haas - a Durham resident and well-known philanthropist who owns and pilots his own plane out of Pease.

Gray said Pease has a tight-knit business community and noted the importance of being able to reach out to Haas so that his team might get quick transportation to Florida where they will catch another plane to Port-au-Prince.

Haas said he had no problem offering his services considering the scope of the need in Haiti.

"It's a national disaster and we want to help out any way we can," Haas said.