10.24.2016Community

We’re here when you need us most

By: Karen Schulz

Just days ago, Hurricane Matthew impacted the East Coast bringing with it devastating winds and flood waters which displaced people from their homes, caused millions to lose commercial power and widespread damage and destruction of personal property. When our communities needed us most, Verizon was there for families, loved ones, first responders and so many others, providing the connection and the ability to reach out when it really mattered. That’s the essential, human, life-saving, service we provide. And that’s why having the most reliable network makes a major difference.

Here are a few ways Verizon was there for our communities:

Network preparation and response

Customers count on our service – we take that responsibility very seriously. We build our network with reliability in mind, with resiliency and redundancy, having battery backup and generators at many cell sites. A week ahead of Hurricane Matthew, we began staffing our Emergency Operations Centers. We staged fuel deliveries for generators and temporary microwave facilities, reinforced base station buildings and switches along the coastal markets and pre-staged recovery equipment. Over the years, we’ve built super switches in Florida that can withstand category 5 hurricane winds.

In the midst of vast commercial power outages, many of our sites used our backup battery power and generators to serve customers. The recovery efforts were strategic and swift; we moved mobile cell sites all the way from Indiana and Pennsylvania, brought in technicians from Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Virginia to help and moved generators from Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.

We were able to rapidly assess damage in flooded areas by using drones for the first time. The first flight to a site inaccessible by land because of flood waters near Elm City, N.C. showed the base station equipment – elevated on stilts – was not underwater and had not suffered visible damage. After determining the site was safe to access, our Network team secured an air boat and refueled the generator, bringing the site back into service within just hours vs. potentially days based on the flooding.

Our network performed extremely well before, during and after the storm – as it does consistently every day. Over 99 percent of our cell sites in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas were up and running serving customers within 72 hours of the storm passing – even with severe flooding and widespread commercial power outages. 

In addition to maintaining our network, we provided mobile cell towers and wireless equipment to emergency response teams including state and local Emergency Operations Centers. Our teams embedded with those first responders and emergency management team leaders were able to respond quickly and effectively to the need for additional coverage and related equipment.

Customer support

Wireless communication is essential to stay in touch with loved ones, contact emergency resources and help with recovery efforts related to hurricanes. So Verizon took care of talk, text and data charges over regular plans for customers in Hurricane Matthew impacted areas.  As areas of impact shifted, so did our offer, extending both the number of customers and days the offer was applicable.

Community support

We deployed Wireless Emergency Communication Centers (WECCs) to areas hardest hit by the storm. WECCs are generator-powered mobile units on large trucks that have device charging and computer workstations, and wireless phones, tablets and other devices to reach friends, family and other important contacts over the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network. WECCs were deployed to hardest hit areas including Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; Pembroke, NC; Lumberton, NC and Palm Coast, FL.

Additionally, we provided free local and long distance calls, phone charging and phone troubleshooting to all local residents, regardless of their wireless provider, in company-owned stores in impacted areas.  Wireless charging stations were also deployed in Lumberton, NC.

We hosted a text-to-give campaign in which customers who wanted to help with Hurricane Matthew Relief efforts, via mobile phone, could donate by texting 80100 with the word "MATTHEW." Donations were collected for the benefit of the GlobalGiving—Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund.

We also donated two tractor trailers of clean, bottled drinking water to those displaced and staying in shelters.

#BetterMatters