Bell Atlantic employees perform heroically during the storm of the century

The world ground to a halt, but the telephone system rolled on

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Newark, N.J. -- Earlier this week, nearly three feet of snow transformed some of the nation's busiest cities into ghost towns. Streets were deserted. Undelivered goods piled up on shipping docks, and jets stood idle on drift-laden runways.

And, as it completes millions of calls today during yet another snow storm, Bell Atlantic doesn't stand still when the rest of the world stops.

During Round One of the Great Blizzard of '96 the company carried nearly 1 billion calls over three days, and we completed 97 percent of them on the first try.

"We're proud our performance, and prouder still of the fact that our customers took us for granted during The Blizzard of '96," said Ed Sproat, president of Bell Atlantic Network Operations. "They counted on us to be up and running, and we were."

"We helped the stranded find lodging, the isolated find company and the sick find medical assistance. That's what Bell Atlantic does every day -- even under three feet of snow," Sproat said.

Bell Atlantic succeeded under adverse conditions because of people like Frank Bressner, a Delaware switching equipment technician with 30 years of service. Bressner walked six miles through thigh-high snow and stinging wind to get to work.

Operator Brenda Miller trudged 26 blocks through the empty streets of Queens to catch a train to the Journal Square call completion center in Jersey City, N.J.

Miller's colleague in Jersey City, Annie Litch, opened her home to fellow operators who couldn't navigate the snowy streets back to theirs.

Eric Heicklen, a tenacious customer support specialist in Allentown, Pa., drove 20 miles on steep, slick roads to reach the Lehigh Valley Residential Sales and Services Center.

On the way, his car collided with another car, but he limped the wounded vehicle into the center, where he found the entrance completely covered with snow. Heicklen and a colleague fought drifts to a loading dock in the back of the building and dug a 10-foot path so their colleagues could get to work.

In Roanoke, Va., four trainees showed up Saturday for their first day of instruction at a residential sales and services center, only to find themselves stuck in a short-handed office. They went right to work handling customer service orders.

Alicia Smith, a service assistant in Berlin, N.J., stepped in to fill an empty manager's chair. From Sunday morning until early Tuesday morning, Smith ran an office that usually accommodates 40 operators with a mere 14.

The police department in Cranford, N.J. thought Smith did a stellar job. A department dispatcher said Smith "bent over backwards" to help police complete a call to a company repair office.

Technician Rick Jacobus walked 4.2 miles from his home in Nutley, N.J. to a network operations center in Montclair. He left home at 7 a.m., and would have left earlier if his wife had let him. She didn't want him wandering through a blizzard in the dark.

Fred Lake, a network technician in Sussex County, Del., was driving to a company office at the height of the storm on Sunday night. He came across a car stuck in a snow drift and stopped to help.

The car's elderly driver had ventured out to bring kerosene back to members of his family, who were waiting at home without electricity or heat. Lake drove the man and his kerosene safely to their destination.

These stories represent a small sampling of heroic employee efforts on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

"It's gratifying to see so many of our people showing so much dedication to our customers that we can't even try to list every instance of selfless service," Sproat said. "These are the people who put heart in The Heart of Communications."

Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE:BEL) is at the forefront of the new communications, entertainment and information industry. In the mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the largest investors in the high-growth wireless communications marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing high-growth national and international business opportunities in all phases of the industry.

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