BEDMINSTER, NJ — With more than 86 percent of its service restored along the storm-battered Gulf Coast, Verizon Wireless reports today that it has provided more than 10,000 wireless devices, including wireless phones and data air cards, as well as free wireless service, to key organizations involved in disaster relief and recovery efforts in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
As of 1 p.m. today, the company had made significant progress in the Gulf Coast region and the areas surrounding New Orleans, including the Lake Ponchartrain area. All cell sites covering the Baton Rouge and Mississippi Gulf Coast areas were back in service this morning, and more than 70 percent of the cell sites serving the greater New Orleans area were back in service.
"We have made significant strides within the last week relative to our network coverage and service," said Jack Plating, South Area President of Verizon Wireless, who is leading the company's recovery efforts. "The Baton Rouge, Mobile, Florida Gulf Coast and Jackson, Mississippi areas are operating normally. The North Shore area to the north of Lake Pontchartrain is operating with less than 20 percent of the area experiencing service issues. The New Orleans metro area gradually improves each day."
Organizations on the ground in the hurricane devastated area that have received phones, wireless data equipment and service include the American Red Cross, National Guard, Coast Guard, National Weather Service, as well as medical, transportation, construction, police and fire agencies and others. In addition to 10,000 phones, another 5,400 were rushed to government agencies making special requests for additional wireless service in the disaster zone. Many of the phones will be placed in the hands of evacuees who need to reach out to family and friends. Verizon Wireless' PC Cards equipped with EV-DO high-speed BroadbandAccess data service are also being used by relief agencies for e-mail, Internet blogging and access to Web sites that help reunite displaced people in areas in Louisiana, including Baton Rouge.
Phones have also been dispatched to Verizon Wireless' Wireless Emergency Communication Center (WECC) at the River Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The company has provided phones at Verizon Wireless WECCs and at many shelters across the South so people can contact relatives and recharge phones. Verizon Wireless continues to deploy additional WECCs at other areas across the country as evacuees are transferred to these locations.
"Verizon Wireless employees are working night and day to get wireless equipment and service into the hands of first responders, relief organizations and evacuees to help them communicate," said Mr. Plating. "We have donated more wireless phones and devices to help our friends and neighbors than we ever have and we won't stop until the job is done. Verizon Wireless knows the rebuilding process is under way and we will work to help with this journey."
As of Friday, September 9, 2005, conditions are as follows:
- The surrounding areas of New Orleans to the southwest, particularly the Houma area, and the cities of Slidell, Hammond, Mandeville, Lacombe, Covington, Metairie and Kenner have good coverage with a few pockets of limited coverage. The areas approximately 20 miles north of Lake Pontchartrain, particularly the Independence, Loranger and Folsom areas have good coverage, although service may not be available in all areas. Service is operating normally at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
- There is service in the French Quarter; however, the central New Orleans area is experiencing limited coverage.
- The Baton Rouge area has normal coverage with no sites down.
- Verizon Wireless' cell site is operational on the roof of the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Biloxi - the site of FEMA's base of operations in the area.
- Verizon Wireless' cell site is operational at the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport, a major base of operations for the National Guard. The Biloxi / Gulfport area has limited coverage, although the company continues to bring up additional cell sites daily and coverage is improving.
- COWs (Cell on Wheels) have been deployed to boost coverage at the following locations:
- Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi
- FEMA's relief distribution center in Gulfport
- The Ocean Springs area
- The Jackson area has normal coverage with no sites down.
- The Mississippi Gulf Coast continues to experience some outages with a few areas with limited service, although the company continues to bring up additional cell sites daily and coverage is improving.
- The Alabama Gulf Coast now has the majority of service restored with a few areas of spotty coverage. In the Mobile area service has returned to normal.
- The Florida Gulf Coast area is operating normally.
(EDITORS: To view the most recent network updates, visit http://www.verizonwireless.com/news and click on MEDIA INFORMATION FOR HURRICANE KATRINA. Broadcast-quality B-roll footage featuring network recovery, reinforcement and support is available online. Log on to www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia to preview and request video segments, which can be received in newsrooms digitally, by tape or via satellite.)
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.