THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Verizon is stepping up with a $60,000 grant to assist Southern Californians forced from their homes amid devastating wildfires that have swept across the region.
Verizon is also providing evacuees with a range of free calling services - from cell phones to automatic call-forwarding - to help them stay connected during the natural disaster.
"Our neighbors are in trouble and we want to help," said Verizon West Region President Tim McCallion. "Communicating in times of crisis is critical, and obviously many people need food, shelter and other basic necessities. We are providing an array of financial and operational support to those who have been displaced by these devastating fires, and we intend to help make the homeowners, business owners and relief workers' lives a little easier during this very trying time."
The Verizon Foundation will donate $60,000 to the American Red Cross for fire victims, with the grant to be divided equally among the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside county chapters of the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Verizon employees throughout Southern California are working in shifts round the clock to maintain and restore communications in areas where the blazes have disrupted landline and cellular service.
"Verizon employees will continue to work tirelessly to enable our customers to make calls and use the Internet on our network, and to meet the special needs of emergency responders and relief organizations," said John Palmer, president, Verizon Wireless' Southern California region. "We recognize the value of communications in a crisis, and are proud to serve. It's times like these that we can see the real value of our ongoing investment in our California network --for coverage, capacity, new capabilities and reliability."
Steve Young, senior vice president for corporate and government markets for Verizon Business, said, "Verizon stands ready to help our customers in the state of California to ensure their continued business operations during this challenging time."
Other ways that the company is responding to needs of residential, business and government customers include:
- Donating 260 cell phones and 25 BroadbandAccess wireless cards to 16 government agencies throughout Southern California.
- Setting up banks of toll-free phones for evacuation shelters at the National Orange Show Fairgrounds, Building Gate No. 5, 590 Arrowhead Ave., San Bernardino.
- Deploying an emergency mobile communications command center at the shelter at the National Orange Show Fairgrounds. The calling command center should arrive later this week at the site, where evacuees and emergency response personnel will be able to make local and long-distance phone calls.
- Providing a high-capacity data line to the local government agencies operating at the National Orange Show Fairgrounds evacuation shelter.
- Offering free call-forwarding to Verizon landline customers who have been forced to leave their home or business because of the fires. (To set up the service, residential customers should call 1-800-483-1000; business customers should call 1-800-483-2000.)
- Installing one cellular repeater to enhance cell phone signal strength and capacity at the Irvine fire command center.
- Installing one Cell on Light Truck (COLT) at the Orange County command center and one at the Santa Clarita command center to increase cellular network capacity.
- Deploying employees equipped with 100 Verizon Wireless phones, 20 laptops and seven BroadbandAccess cards to Qualcomm Stadium, El Toro High School, the Orange Show Fairgrounds and Del Mar Racetrack relief centers to allow evacuees to make calls, check email and charge their wireless devices.
- Verizon Business has set up audio and net conference calls for state and local agencies and educational institutions. The calls will be used for emergency response, to coordinate firefighting strategy and disaster relief efforts, and conduct daily business during the crisis situation. Many of these conference calls have 100 connections or more and are kept as standing calls so emergency responders can dial in for updates throughout the day.
Despite the widespread fires, Verizon's Southern California wireline and wireless networks remained largely unaffected Wednesday.
Fewer than 3,600 landline phones were reported out of service, and only a small fraction of the region's cell sites had been affected. Some minor outages were the result of direct fire damage to Verizon communication lines and equipment, and others were attributed to drained backup batteries in electronic equipment in areas that lost commercial power.
Verizon technicians are stockpiling materials and are prepared to enter the affected areas to restore service as soon as fire department officials declare it safe to do so.
Verizon is encouraging customers to limit non-emergency calls to free up network capacity for emergency agencies and operations. For wireless customers, text messages are an effective way to get messages through with a smaller demand on the network.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 62 million customers nationwide. Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which brings customers the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network. A Dow 30 company, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 238,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $88 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.