BEDMINSTER, NJ — Verizon Wireless continues the urgent work of maintaining and restoring wireless service in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast regions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The company has dispatched teams of network technicians who are making progress in strengthening communications in many of the affected areas. Service to parts of New Orleans and surrounding areas, including Mandeville, Lacombe, Slidell, Hammond and Covington, are beginning to come back online and coverage has been reestablished at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International airport. Wireless service continues to improve in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Pensacola, Florida; and Mobile, Alabama and in surrounding areas where technicians have been able to move in and begin restoring the network.
"The severity of Hurricane Katrina has led to significant disruption to all communications services and we fully understand and agree with the urgency to restore service as quickly as humanly possible," said Verizon Wireless South Area President Jack Plating, who is leading the company's recovery efforts. "We will continue to work round-the-clock on our network and at our stores to provide support to residents in the affected areas."
Emergency recovery crews have been dispatched to areas that can be reached safely to assess damage and initiate repairs. The Verizon Wireless network team has been working with the landline telephone company and others to identify connectivity issues that are impacting Verizon Wireless' network. Additionally, support staff and equipment from surrounding areas are being brought in to support the restoration effort.
Verizon Wireless hurricane response and recovery efforts include:
- More than a dozen COWs (Cell on Wheels) are staged and ready to be deployed to help increase wireless coverage in the hardest hit areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, once state and federal emergency officials give the go-ahead.
- Electrical generators are in place to provide emergency power to cell sites without permanent generators.
- Verizon Wireless Disaster Recovery teams are coordinating with wireline and power companies to reestablish connectivity to cell phone towers in the area.
- Continuous monitoring of cell sites and switches in the affected areas has been under way from the company's national Network Operations Control Centers located in New Jersey and Texas, assisting recovery teams on the ground in identifying service status and conditions.
- Verizon Wireless Communications Stores in Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola have been re-opened and are providing residents free local and long-distance calls, battery charging and technical support to anyone in need of these services due to Hurricane Katrina.
- Verizon Wireless Emergency Communication Centers (WECCs) will be established in Houston and in Baton Rouge. Verizon Wireless employees from other states have volunteered their assistance to the WECCs, which will help evacuees place calls, re-charge their phones and will provide technical support and customer service, free of charge.
- Verizon Wireless has joined with the American Red Cross to provide its customers nationwide the opportunity to support the relief efforts by making donations directly from their wireless phones.
- The Verizon Foundation has established a special disaster relief program to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina that could raise up to $2 million. The Foundation will match 2-to-1 Verizon Wireless and Verizon Communications employee contributions, up to $2,500 per year in disaster relief donation per employee, and up to $2 million companywide to support relief efforts by the Red Cross through September 30, 2005.
While Verizon Wireless continues to work to restore service in all areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina, the company also offers the following tips to those in the affected areas:
- Communicate through TXT Messaging since this service uses less bandwidth than voice calls and has a higher chance of getting through.
- Try to limit wireless phone usage as much as possible by calling an out of town contact to let them know you are safe and asking them to spread the word to your family and friends. This will help keep the network from being overloaded for emergency workers who are depending on wireless communications in their rescue and restoration operations.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 47.4 million voice and data 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 preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.