In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, wireless communications providers have begun to deploy emergency operations initiatives to ensure continuous network availability for victims in the Gulf region.
“After last years devastating hurricane season, we know all too well how critical communication is in an emergency situation,” said Dan Norman, vice president and general manager for Cingular Wireless North Florida market, in a company statement.
“For many people, their wireless phone was their only line of communication during and after the hurricanes.”
Cingular Wireless conducts regular drills throughout the year to prepare for hurricanes and other catastrophic events that would likely affect wireless service.
Cingular has an emergency response process in place for such situations, according to a news release.
As part of Cingulars preparations, the company said, it has made available 200 portable generators, over 30,000 gallons of fuel and a number of portable cell sites. Several hundred network technicians and engineers are already in place along the Gulf Coast to help make wireless operations go smoothly.
Cingular also announced in a recent news release that it has set up free emergency calling stations at its retail stores across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana for victims of Hurricane Katrina who are without power or telephone service.
Verizon Wireless is also stepping it up to provide wireless coverage to the affected area.
“With several major hurricanes impacting the Gulf Coast last year, we saw firsthand how important wireless service can be before, during and after a storm,” said Katherine Greene, president for the Verizon Wireless Houston/Gulf Coast region, in a company statement. “Proactive planning is key to staying safe during an emergency.”
Verizon Wireless emergency operations teams have been mobilized and are en route to the affected area.
Local preparations include prearranged fuel delivery to Verizon network switching facilities in Louisiana and to generators at other permanent cell sites.
Verizon has also fine-tuned its digital network across the state to maximize call capacity during heavy traffic. These measures are in place to provide continuous operations even with extensive power failure or high network traffic, the company said in a recent news release.
Additionally, Verizons Covington and Baton Rouge network switching facilities house several self-powered mobile cell sites, or COWs (Cells on Wheels). These portable cell sites can be mobilized in regions that require additional capacity for wireless networks, according to the release.
BellSouth Corp. is prepared to provide emergency relief to customers who depend on traditional land-line telephones for communication.
“We have contingency plans in place for each area of Louisiana that is vulnerable. If a hurricane should strike, emergency procedures extending throughout BellSouths nine-state region go into effect,” said Merlin Villar, BellSouth regional director for southern Louisiana, in a company statement.
A recent BellSouth news release said BellSouth technicians are in place to make sure that these wide-scale emergency procedures are carried out efficiently.
Villar said BellSouths first priority after a hurricane is to hook up diesel-powered generators to offices and distribution facilities to prevent loss of service.
“The number-one cause of telephone outages during a storm and immediately after it has passed is an interruption of commercial power to telephone switching offices and area distribution facilities,” Villar said in a statement. “Thats why we have battery backup systems in place at each site.”
To prepare, BellSouth has stored several hundred portable generators in regional warehouses for quick deployment. Additionally, the BellSouth network utilizes SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) rings that provide instant network backup connections when the system fails, according to the release.
In the case of extensive cable damage due to major flooding, BellSouth can use radio equipment for the regeneration of communication signals.
Other communications providers, including T-Mobile, have similar emergency measures in place and are prepared to help victims of Hurricane Katrina to weather the storm.