LAKELAND, Fla. - What began with the activation of Verizon's emergency preparedness plan two days in advance of Hurricane Charley has progressed to a coordinated, full-scale restoration and relief effort in Polk, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, involving a wide array of the company's resources.
Service to as many as 25,000 of Verizon's 2.2 million lines in the state was disrupted by the storm. Restoration teams from throughout the Southeast, mobile technology from both Verizon and Verizon Wireless, and significant donations from the Verizon Foundation and Verizon employees highlight the steps taken by the company to ease the disruptions experienced by affected communities.
"The damages to the region are catastrophic, and the devastation has left many thousands in need of support," said Alan Ciamporcero, president of Verizon's Southeast region. "Our crews are working hand in hand with the power companies and emergency operations to restore service as quickly and as safely as possible."
The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, will provide a direct grant of $100,000 to the American Red Cross through its Disaster Relief fund. In addition, the foundation will match employee contributions on a two-to-one basis, up to $100,000, bringing the anticipated total from Verizon and its employees to as much as $250,000.
Other steps taken by Verizon include:
- The addition of 13 specialized crews in damaged areas, adding to the full complement of field technicians regularly deployed. These crews target specific areas cleared for entry from the power companies, replacing poles, installing cable drops and performing cable splices, among other tasks.
- Distributing and servicing over 100 generators to power remote units affected by the storm. These remote units will be fully operational by Friday evening, allowing Verizon to analyze and repair troubles masked by the loss of electrical power. Service provided through 26 of Verizon's central offices continued unimpeded due to back-up generators that automatically kick in when power is lost.
- Verizon's Public Communications unit will work with Polk County's emergency operations personnel to create three free calling stations, utilizing wireless pay phone trailers. Both local and toll calls will be free for a maximum of five minutes and will be available as long as necessary at locations in Lake Wales, Haines City and Frostproof. (Editor's note: Please see locations at end of release.)
- Verizon SuperPages is working with several agencies in Charlotte County to distribute up to 8,400 additional directories to citizens.
- Verizon's IT employees in Temple Terrace are holding a blood drive through August 18 to help replenish critically low blood supplies.
- A wireless emergency communications center (WECC) has been deployed by Verizon Wireless in Charlotte County near the areas hardest hit by the storm. The WECC tent - located at the Charlotte County Relief Center off Kings Highway and Midway (Kings Crossing shopping center) in Port Charlotte - will have numerous wireless phones and computers, allowing storm victims to make free calls and send e-mails over the Verizon Wireless digital network.
- The WECC and Verizon Wireless stores in nearby Sarasota and Bradenton will have teams of technicians available to check, clean and charge up phones that went through the storm, or have lost power. Some stores in the storm area south of Sarasota and several in the Orlando area currently are closed due to power outages, but approximately 60 locations are open and ready to provide storm-related services across the state. Nearly 90 percent of the company's digital network in Southwest Florida is continuing to operate normally, although power outages at some transmission sites and heavy emergency usage have increased demand on the network.
- Two COW (cell on wheels) mobile transmission sites are expected to be deployed early this week to boost the network capacity, and network teams are already working to restore all permanent cell sites in the area.
"Verizon personnel are out there working day and night to restore the network," said Ciamporcero. "Indeed, even some employees who have lost their own houses are at work, while others have been covering 24-hour shifts managing the process. This level of dedication and commitment to help communities affected by the storm embodies the spirit and culture of Verizon."
Verizon Public Communications free calling stations will be located at:
First Baptist Church, Smith Building, 96-B St. West, Frostproof
Lake Eva Center, 305 Ledwith Ave., Haines City
Wal-Mart parking lot, 2000 State Road 60 East, Lake Wales
A Dow 30 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $68 billion in annual revenues. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.