BEDMINSTER, NJ — Verizon Wireless continues the urgent work of maintaining and restoring wireless service in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast regions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The company has dispatched teams of network technicians who are making progress in strengthening communications in many of the affected areas. Service in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Pensacola, Florida; and Jackson, Mississippi has returned to normal, while service improvements continue in Mobile, Alabama, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including Biloxi, and in New Orleans and surrounding areas, including Mandeville, Lacombe, Hammond and Covington, where technicians have been able to move in and begin restoring the network. Service has also been restored at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International airport where helicopters are transporting those that have been rescued from roof tops.
"We are making progress, bringing more resources to the impacted areas, opening additional store locations to help connect people in the impacted communities, and working diligently to restore service as quickly as possible," said Verizon Wireless South Area President Jack Plating, who is leading the company's recovery efforts. "We will continue to work where we can and bring more cell sites up as the situation improves."
Emergency recovery crews have been dispatched to areas that can be reached safely to assess damage and initiate repairs. The Verizon Wireless network team has been working with the landline telephone company and others to identify connectivity issues that are impacting Verizon Wireless' network. Additionally, support staff and equipment from surrounding areas are being brought in to support the restoration effort.
Verizon Wireless hurricane response and recovery efforts include:
- Nearly 20 COWs (Cell on Wheels) are staged and ready to be deployed to help increase wireless coverage in the hardest hit areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, once state and federal emergency officials give the go-ahead.
- Electrical generators have been sent in from across the country and are now in place to provide emergency power to cell sites without permanent generators.
- Verizon Wireless Disaster Recovery teams are coordinating with wireline and power companies to reestablish connectivity to cell phone towers in the area.
- Continuous monitoring of cell sites and switches in the affected areas has been under way from the company's national Network Operations Control Centers located in New Jersey and Texas, assisting recovery teams on the ground in identifying service status and conditions.
- Verizon Wireless Communications Stores in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Mobile and Pensacola and other areas have been re-opened and are providing residents free local and long-distance calls, battery charging and technical support to anyone in need of these services due to Hurricane Katrina.
- Verizon Wireless Emergency Communication Centers (WECCs) have been established in Houston at the Astrodome and Reliant Arena to help evacuees place calls, re-charge their phones and will provide technical support and customer service, free of charge. Verizon Wireless employees from other states have volunteered their assistance to the WECCs.
- As evacuees arrive at the Astrodome and other sites, Verizon Wireless is providing them with the means to reach out to people around the country who are desperate to know that they're safe. Communicating via text messaging, Verizon Wireless has helped reunite many families that have been separated as they were transported to Houston, as well as help evacuees reach family members that have been displaced. Verizon Wireless is also handing out 10,000 Verizon long-distance calling cards at these locations.
- Verizon Wireless is distributing phones to shelters in Baton Rouge and other areas to help evacuees connect with family and friends.
- Verizon Wireless' EV-DO high-speed data service is being used in areas in Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, by relief agencies for e-mail, Internet blogging and access to Web sites that help reunite displaced people.
- Verizon Wireless has joined with the American Red Cross to provide its customers nationwide the opportunity to support the relief efforts by making donations directly from their wireless phones. Customers simply send the message "2HELP" via a text message to the address 2HELP or 24357 using the key word "help." They will receive a reply message asking them to confirm a donation to the American Red Cross of $5.00 customers wishing to donate more than once can send up to four additional text messages to 2HELP, for a total contribution of $25.00.
- The Verizon Foundation has established a special disaster relief program to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina that has raised nearly $5 million to date. The Foundation is matching 2-to-1 Verizon Wireless and Verizon Communications employee contributions to support relief efforts by the Red Cross through September 30, 2005.
While Verizon Wireless continues to work to restore service in all areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina, the company also offers the following tips to those in the affected areas:
- Communicate through TXT Messaging since this service uses less bandwidth than voice calls. TXT messages continue to have a higher success rate of getting through in many areas where service has not returned to normal.
- Try to limit wireless phone usage as much as possible by calling an out of town contact to let them know you are safe and asking them to spread the word to your family and friends. This will help keep the network from being overloaded for emergency workers who are depending on wireless communications in their rescue and restoration operations.
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 .####