VERO BEACH, FL — To help victims of Hurricane Jeanne more easily reach family, friends and other important contacts, a wireless emergency communications center (WECC) has been deployed by Verizon Wireless at the FEMA relief center outside the Indian River Mall. With landline phone and other wireless service unavailable in much of the region, the WECC will have numerous wireless phones and computers on board, allowing storm victims to make free calls and send emails over the Verizon Wireless digital network which is operating at near full strength in the region and across the state.
In addition, the WECC and Verizon Wireless stores in surrounding areas will have special teams of technicians available to check, clean and charge up phones that went through the storm and/or have lost power.
The WECC is set up alongside the FEMA relief center where emergency agencies are providing ice, water and other supplies.
"It's very unfortunate for residents that they find themselves in need a second time in just a few weeks, but we're here again helping them reach friends, loved ones or important contacts such as insurance companies," said Mike Lanman, Florida region president of Verizon Wireless.
After Hurricane Frances, WECCs were set up in various locations in the Treasure Coast, and other parts of the state were served following hurricanes Charley and Ivan. Verizon Wireless has also provided approximately 1,500 phones to rescue agencies, and more than one million free minutes of air time to victims and rescuers during this devastating hurricane season.
To keep the Verizon Wireless network up and running to handle the great post-storm demand, numerous mobile transmission sites and technical teams have been deployed into the region. In addition, 85 percent of existing Verizon Wireless transmission sites in the area have their own back-up generators so they can continue to operate during power outages.
During the height of Jeanne, the network remained up and operating at about 90 percent, and quickly has been brought back to more than 95 percent across the state. 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.
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 85 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/verizonwireless.