BASKING RIDGE, NJ — The 2006 wildfire season is viewed as one of the worst in 50 years, and Verizon Wireless has been called upon by firefighters to serve as a vital communications link in some of the most rugged and remote wilderness terrain. So far during the 2006 wildfire season, state and national forestry officials have turned to the owner and operator of the nation's most reliable wireless network in seven western states where Verizon Wireless has deployed mobile cell sites and provided wireless phones to help emergency response teams communicate and coordinate their efforts while battling the fires.
Most recently, Verizon Wireless deployed a COLT (Cell on Light Truck) and 20 wireless phones to support firefighters and other emergency crews who contained the 8,000-acre Ralston Fire in the Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests in northern California. The COLT was stationed on the front lines to enable the California Department of Forestry's Incident Command Center to coordinate efforts from the fringes of the fire.*
Since the season began, Verizon Wireless also has:
- Deployed a COW (Cell on Wheels) at the Reserve Complex Fire near the Arizona and New Mexico border to help the United States Forest Service communicate with firefighters.
- Deployed a COW in eastern Washington and Oregon, to help the Washington State Forest Service where rocky terrain poses special challenges for firefighters battling the Flick Creek/Tin Pan fire near Lake Chelan.
- Deployed a COW at the Foster Gulch wildland fire in Halfway, Oregon. The COW processed calls in support of the command center.
- Responded to a call from Natrona County, Wyoming firefighters who needed 100 SERT (Significant Event Response Team) phones to assist fire-fighting efforts near Casper, Wyoming. All working wireless phones were received the next morning.
- Responded to a request for a repeater, a device that is designed to extend the wireless network range without requiring additional any wiring, for Clark County, Nevada.
- Provided a repeater to help fire department officials communicate with firefighters and other emergency crews as they battled a fire near Big Bear Lake in California.
Verizon Wireless COWs (Cells on Wheels) and COLTs (Cells on Light Trucks) are self-contained mobile cell sites specifically designed for rapid, and short-term response. These mobile cell sites can process thousands of calls an hour, enabling more emergency response teams and residents to use their wireless phones concurrently.
"When we have a large scale incident such as this, our normal communication can be impaired, so what we often do is call Verizon Wireless and they will bring us a mobile cell site and a cache of phones that we can utilize to improve our communications," said Mike Giannini, Battalion Chief, Marin County Fire Department.
"We work year-round to ensure that our network is ready when natural disasters hit, whether it is wildfires or any other weather condition that affects wireless communication," said Keith Surratt, Vice President-Network, West Area at Verizon Wireless. "We realize the importance of reliable communication during emergencies and we are happy to help support the life-saving efforts of the firefighters and emergency crews in California and throughout the West during this record-breaking wildfire season."
Verizon Wireless has invested $30 billion in the last six years -- $5 billion on average every year since the company was formed -- to increase the coverage and capacity of its national network and to add new services. For more information, visit www.verizonwireless.com.
*Broadcast-quality video footage of the Verizon Wireless COLT in use in Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests in California is available in the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.
High-resolution stills of the Verizon Wireless COW and COLT are available in the Verizon Wireless Image Library at http://www.verizonwireless.com/news.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 54.8 million voice and data customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., 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.
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