HOUSTON, TX — Verizon Wireless has deployed a Wireless Emergency Communications Center (WECC) between the Astrodome and the Reliant Arena, providing a lifeline for victims of Hurricane Katrina to reach their family, friends and other important contacts.
The WECC will provide access to wireless phones, allowing evacuees to make free calls, send emails and post messages over the Verizon Wireless network.
"The evacuees in Houston have been traveling for many hours to reach a safe place. They're not only exhausted, but most have been cut off from their loved ones and important contacts such as insurance companies since the hurricane struck," said Katherine Greene, Houston/Gulf Coast region president of Verizon Wireless. "Just being able to make a quick call can be of great help and comfort during this uncertain time."
The WECC will provide teams of technicians available to troubleshoot and charge up cell phone batteries that survived the storm and/or have lost power. In the coming days, Verizon Wireless will expand its service to accommodate more people and will provide Internet-enabled computers.
In addition to the WECC in Houston, Verizon Wireless Communication Stores impacted by the storm have opened in Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola and Hammond to provide free local and long distance calls, phone charging and phone troubleshooting. Verizon Wireless Communication Stores throughout the South area are providing services to those who have been impacted by the storm.To find their nearest Verizon Wireless store, customers can visit Verizon Wireless online at http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/storelocator/index.jsp. 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 2005 nationwide disaster preparation drills earlier this year, simulated the circumstances of a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast.
In the Gulf Coast region 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 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.