BEDMINSTER, NJ — Working round-the-clock, Verizon Wireless is making more headway today to restore wireless service in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast regions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The company's teams of network technicians made more progress in strengthening communications in many of the affected areas. As of Monday, September 5, 2005, conditions are as follows:
- The surrounding areas of New Orleans to the southwest, particularly the Houma area, have good service with a few pockets of limited coverage. Slidell, Hammond, Mandeville, Lacombe, Covington, Metairie and Kenner also 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. Coverage has been restored at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
- The central New Orleans area is experiencing wide spread outages with limited coverage.
- In the Baton Rouge area, customers should not experience any problems except for a very few select areas.
- Verizon Wireless' cell site is operational on the roof of the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Biloxi - the site of FEMAs 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.
- 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 outages with a few areas with limited service.
- The Alabama Gulf Coast now has the majority of service restored with a few areas of spotty coverage. The Mobile area has service restored to the majority of the area.
- The Florida Gulf Coast has the majority of service restored.
"Our technicians are preparing to be escorted into the city of New Orleans to repair cell towers and other equipment that knocked out operations when Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flooding cut off much of the communications to the city," said Verizon Wireless South Area President Jack Plating, who is leading the company's recovery efforts. "In areas where communication has not returned to normal, Verizon Wireless is using text messaging to help reunite many families that have been separated as they were evacuated from New Orleans and other areas. We've sent hundreds of text messages from the Verizon Wireless Emergency Communication Centers in Houston after people could not reach their family in the 504 area code. We received both reply text messages and phone calls one of the text replies simply said 'Thank God. And thank you.'"
Verizon Wireless support staff and equipment, including Cells on Wheels and thousands of wireless phones to be used and distributed to emergency personnel, from throughout the country are being brought in to support the restoration effort. Verizon Wireless hurricane response and recovery efforts include:
Network Reinforcement and Support
- 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.
- Even though approximately 80 percent of Verizon Wireless' cell sites in the impacted area are equipped with permanent generators to provide power in the event of power loss, Verizon Wireless has also deployed dozens of portable electrical generators from across the country to the area. These 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 across the affected area 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.
- More than 300 calls per hour are being made by evacuees from Verizon Wireless Emergency Communication Centers (WECCs) in Houston at the Astrodome and Reliant Arena. The WECCs have been established 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 working with the American Red Cross to distribute phones to shelters in Louisiana, Texas and areas across the South where evacuees have been transported to help them 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 is enabling its customers to donate to the American Red Cross to support the relief efforts 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 $3.3 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 wireless users in affected areas: Communicate through TXT Messaging. Using less bandwidth than voice calls, TXT Messaging has a higher success rate of getting through in many areas where service has not returned to normal.
- Limit wireless phone usage whenever 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 emergency workers are depending on wireless communications in their rescue and restoration operations.
- When possible, keep a back-up wireless phone battery on hand. With a back-up power source, wireless customers can continue to communicate by swapping out the battery with the charged battery once the power has drained.
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.