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11.29.2017Enterprise Tech

Post Irma: Florida public safety officials learn how Verizon’s network performed

By: John O’Malley

When it comes to responding to major events, it’s all about “the prep”

People in a conference

With Hurricane Irma still fresh in everyone’s mind, 45 public safety officials from the Orlando FL area recently gathered at a Verizon network facility for a closer look at how Verizon prepares for major weather emergencies and other events, as well as insight into how our network performed during and after the storm. They also got “a peek behind the curtain” at the redundant systems built into our network to maintain connectivity for first responders and all customers every day and in times of emergency, as well as a demonstration of how drone technology can provide high-definition video surveillance capabilities for their emergency response efforts

People in front of van

The team from Flymotion demonstrates its aerial drone technology and ways it can support emergency response

The meeting was one of a series of briefings being held across the country to give public safety greater visibility into all the ways Verizon is working to ensure first responders continue to have access to the best, most reliable communications networks.

Russ Preite, Verizon Southeast Market president, reinforced Verizon’s commitment to supporting public safety and first responders nationwide. He cited Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, as well as the wildfires in several western states, as examples of the critical need to have reliable networks in place, along with mobile assets, other advanced technologies, and an experienced team of people trained and prepared to respond rapidly to maintain and restore network operations during major events.

Ramesh Toolsie, director of Network Assurance for Verizon, presented a deep dive into his team’s preparations for, and response to Hurricane Irma.

Computer server room

Inside Flymotion's mobile command vehicle

Toolsie said that, even though it had been 12 years since a hurricane last impacted the Orlando area, the local network team was prepared for Irma because they train for events like Irma every year and learn from past events locally and in other parts of the country.

Their preparation included positioning mobile network assets and generator refueling trucks for rapid deployment prior to the storm and then moving in quickly after the storm had passed when it was safe to do so.

More than 560 Verizon network employees worked to assess storm damage and restore service throughout Florida and into South Carolina and Georgia. They deployed one cell on light truck (COLT), two mobile cell towers, six satellite pico cells on trailers (SPOTs – to provide satellite communications), more than 140 portable generators, and more than 200 refueling trucks carrying a total of more than 460,000 gallons of fuel to maintain and restore service throughout the affected areas. During the storm, 90 percent of the Verizon network in Florida remained in service. We were back at business-as-usual levels within a matter of days.


Our large on-site generators can keep our wireless switch online for days in the event of an extended commercial power outage

“It’s all about the prep, the prep, the prep,” Ramesh said, “as well as having people with a passion to help our customers and first responders.”

John Wasilewski, managing partner, Solution Architects, walked through Verizon’s plans to continue to invest in our network and provide innovative solutions for first responders. He highlighted the $125 billion in network investments Verizon has made since 2000, our efforts to build a public-safety grade network that can withstand the effects of storms like Irma and Harvey, and our plan to build a dedicated public safety network that will be available in 2018.

Massive Batteries

Massive batteries provide an additional layer of backup power to ensure network connectivity in the wake of a major event

The guests then got a behind-the-scenes look at our local switching center and massive back-up generators and batteries that can keep the facility and the network online for days in the event of commercial power loss.

Outside, guests saw some of our deployable mobile assets, and drone technology experts Flymotion US gave a demonstration of how drone technology can support law enforcement, emergency response, even search and rescue operations.

Learn more about how Verizon continues to support public safety and to advocate for interoperability, innovation and choice. 

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About the author(s): 

John O’Malley is an external communications manager at Verizon writing about enterprise solutions and public safety.