BOCA RATON, FL — With the tail-end of high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Katrina still moving out of Florida, Verizon Wireless already has dispatched teams of network technicians with mobile generators and portable transmission sites in the state's hardest-hit areas, to reinforce wireless coverage for residents and emergency agencies.
About 96 percent of the Verizon Wireless Florida digital network remained up and running throughout the storm, though network operability dropped slightly after the storm due to back-up batteries on rooftop cell sites running down. By 11 a.m. Friday, the network already was returning to full capacity.
Verizon Wireless technicians were deployed at sunrise Friday and are now working to restore any out-of-service sites and to deploy mobile transmission units to boost network capacity in areas where residents and rescue workers -- especially in areas where power and other communication networks have failed -- must rely on wireless phones for post-storm communications.
"Wireless communication can play a key public safety role in emergencies," said Mike Lanman, Verizon Wireless Florida region president. "And we dedicate a great amount of resources to prepare and respond."
Verizon Wireless has invested more than $800 million in its Florida network during the past five years, earning honors for call quality from numerous organizations, such as J.D. Power. The company invests more than $4 billion nationwide each year -- about $1 billion every 90 days -- in its advanced voice and data networks.
Preparations for Hurricane Katrina included:
- Fine-tuning the company's digital network across the state to add call capacity in threatened areas before the storm hit. During the 2004 storm season, call traffic spiked dramatically on the day before landfall, and continued to be heavy on the Verizon Wireless network as other land and wireless networks failed.
- Strategically positioning fleets of mobile generators and mobile cell sites to be deployed immediately in any hard-hit areas. The company has dozens of Cells on Wheels (COWS), which are self-powered transmitters that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity.
- Pre-arranging fuel delivery to the mobile units and generators at permanent cell sites to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time. Nearly 80 percent of the individual transmission sites operated by Verizon Wireless have their own on-site generators. This capability is critical when power goes out and if roads are impassable.
- Teams of "test men" from across the state were ready to roll in specially-equipped vehicles to test the network in the wake of Katrina.
Residents are urged to help themselves with emergency wireless communication preparations, including:
- Keep wireless phone batteries charged in case local power is lost.
- Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.
- Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
- Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers - police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. - and program them into your phone.
- Distribute wireless phone numbers to family members and friends.
- Forward your home phone calls to your wireless number if you will be away from your home or have to evacuate.
However, once a storm hits, residents should:
- Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations.
- Send brief TXT Messages rather than voice calls for the same reasons as above.
- When necessary, check weather and news reports available on many Internet-connected and other wireless phone applications when power is out.
Editor's Note: To accompany a Verizon Wireless test man or to visit one of the company's Emergency Command Centers in preparation of a storm, contact Chuck Hamby at 813-404-6029.
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.