BOCA RATON, FL — With Hurricane Frances still churning across the center of Florida, Verizon Wireless already has dispatched teams of network technicians and dozens of mobile transmission sites to the hardest-hit areas along the state's East Coast where the slow-moving storm battered communities all weekend.
While about 85 percent of the Verizon Wireless Florida digital network has remained up and running throughout the storm, the technicians are now working to restore any downed sites and to deploy mobile transmission units to boost network capacity in areas where residents and rescue workers must rely on wireless communications in the hurricane's wake.
Network teams have 28 COWs (cells on wheels) and COLTs (cells on light trucks) and more than 200 generators ready to go to strengthen the network. In addition, Verizon Wireless is prepared to quickly set up wireless emergency communication centers (WECCs) to serve residents and rescue agencies in the area(s) in the greatest need, with the location(s) soon to be determined, in conjunction with state officials.
After Hurricane Charley, thousands of residents in Southwest Florida - who lost landline phone service and/or coverage from their wireless carriers - were served at the WECCs to make free phone calls and emails, and to charge and/or service their phones. Verizon Wireless also provided more than 500 phones to rescue agencies, and nearly one million free minutes of air time to victims and rescuers.
More than 750 Verizon Wireless phones are available for use by rescue agencies responding to Hurricane Frances.
"Wireless communication is a critical resource, especially during an emergency," said Mike Lanman, Verizon Wireless Florida region president. "That's why it is so important for us to respond quickly and comprehensively like this in a time of crisis, and, more importantly, to build and prepare our network to perform well in any situation."
More than 85 percent of existing Verizon Wireless transmission sites in Florida have their own back-up generators and extended battery back-up to operate during power outages. During Charley, the network remained operating at approximately 90 percent capacity during the storm, and was back at 100 percent just a few days later.
However, Verizon Wireless and emergency officials urge residents to use their wireless phones only when necessary so the network will not be overloaded for emergency workers who are depending on wireless communications in their rescue and restoration operations.
Other emergency communication tips include:
- Keep wireless phone batteries and extras charged whenever possible, such as with a vehicle charger or an outlet with safe, available electricity.
- Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
- Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers and program them into your phone.
- If having to dial 9-1-1, remember to hit the "Send" key and state your location.
Families and friends outside of the storm area hoping to reach victims also are urged to first call the American Red Cross at 866-GET-INFO, rather than trying to call the victim directly, to relieve demand on the wireless and landline networks in the storm-struck areas.
About Verizon Wireless Emergency Planning
Throughout the year, Verizon Wireless prepares comprehensive disaster recovery plans to test emergency generators and back-up batteries to keep the network online in the event of a power outage. In fact, a mock scenario, played out in one of the company's 2004 nationwide disaster preparation drills earlier this year, simulated the circumstances of a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast of Florida.
In Florida alone, more than 80 percent of the individual transmission sites operated by Verizon Wireless have their own on-site generators. This capability is critical if roads are impassable in the wake of a storm. In addition, Verizon Wireless has readied thousands of loaner wireless phones and extra batteries for distribution and use by local emergency personnel.
The company also has a mobile fleet of Cells on Wheels (COWS) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), which are self-powered transmitters that can be rolled into hard hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity. The company's fleet of portable generators are kept fueled and placed on standby in areas prone to sudden natural disasters, and fuel companies are scheduled to assist in keeping generators running. The company invests more than $4 billion annually to expand and upgrade its network.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications. The company has the largest nationwide wireless voice and data network and 40.4 million customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To receive broadcast-quality video footage of Verizon Wireless operations, log onto www.thenewsmarket.com.