updated 9/4/2005 6:12:29 PM ET 2005-09-04T22:12:29

High-tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are offering money, equipment and expertise to help with the recovery effort and reconnect survivors in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., SBC Communications Inc., Dell Inc. and others are working with the Red Cross to build voice and data communications at hundreds of evacuation shelters, and link them together.

The equipment — including laptop computers and wireless access points — will help the relief agency track evacuees as well as help them find emergency funds and track lost relatives, said Intel spokeswoman Jennifer Greeson.

"It has to be a very robust communications tool that all the shelters can use to communicate with each other and with headquarters," she said.

Intel and other companies already have employees working with the Red Cross in Washington. About 150 wireless access points as well as 1,500 Dell Inc. and Lenovo notebooks are expected to be deployed early this week.

Hundreds of tech workers are expected to be sent into the disaster area and evacuation centers to help. Santa Clara-based Intel said more than 200 of its employees have been mobilized.

Besides destroying a wide swath of Gulf Coast homes and businesses, Katrina devastated the area's communications infrastructure.

Wireless data networks are expected to be widely used because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to set up once electricity is available. Such networks not only transport data but also Internet-based telephone service.

The companies are focusing first on building up the Red Cross' network, providing Internet access, computers and telephones.

"The Red Cross has a good infrastructure, but they're relying on the tech industry to step up," Greeson said. "Basically, `This is what we need, go make it happen.'"

Besides equipment and expertise, the companies also are donating cash. Microsoft and Intel have pledged $1 million each to relief organizations and are matching their employees' contributions.

"As a U.S.-based corporation, we must go above and beyond in order to help the thousands who have been affected by this tragedy," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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