Hurricane Katrina Threatens The Gulf Coast; Verizon Wireless Prepares Network, Offers Tips For Residents

GULF COAST — With Hurricane Katrina headed toward the Gulf Coast region, Verizon Wireless has mobilized its emergency operations teams to ensure reliable wireless phone coverage before, during and after the storm for residents and local emergency agencies.

Local efforts include:

  • Pre-arranging fuel delivery to the company's network switching facilities in Baton Rouge and Covington, and to generators at permanent cell sites to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time. Nearly 80 percent of the individual transmission sites operated by Verizon Wireless have their own on-site generators. This capability is critical when power goes out and if roads are impassable.

  • At the company's Baton Rouge and Covington network switching facilities, there are Cells on Wheels (COWs) on standby. These self-powered mobile cell sites to be deployed immediately in any hard-hit areas that need extra network capacity.

  • Fine-tuning the company's digital network across the state and maximizing call capacity where needed in threatened areas before the storm hits. During the 2004 storm season, call traffic spiked dramatically on the day before a hurricane's landfall, and continued to be heavy on the Verizon Wireless network as other communications networks failed.

  • Teams of "test men" from across the state are getting ready to roll in specially-equipped vehicles to test the network in the wake of Katrina and anywhere the storm might pass.

"With several major hurricanes impacting the Gulf Coast last year, we saw first hand how important wireless service can be before, during and after a storm," said Katherine Greene, president for the Verizon Wireless Houston/Gulf Coast region. "Proactive planning is key to staying safe during an emergency."

The Verizon Wireless network proved to be the most reliable last year, often the only functional communications network for the public, relief agencies and emergency officials during an extraordinary 2004 season of storms.

During and after each storm in 2004, the Verizon Wireless Gulf Coast network remained nearly 90 percent operational, and was back to 100 percent within a few days, while most other means of communication were knocked out in many cases for residents and emergency response officials.

Gulf Coast residents also can help themselves with emergency wireless communication preparations, including:

  • Keep wireless phone batteries charged in case local power is lost.

  • Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.

  • Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.

  • Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers — police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. — and program them into your phone.

  • Distribute wireless phone numbers to family members and friends.

  • Forward your home phone calls to your wireless number if you will be away from your home or have to evacuate.

  • Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations.

  • Send brief TXT Messages rather than voice calls for the same reasons as above.

  • Check weather and news reports available on many Internet-connected and other wireless phone applications when power is out.

Editor's Note: To accompany a Verizon Wireless test man or to visit one of the company's Emergency Command Centers in preparation of a storm, contact Patrick Kimball at 281-686-1937.

About Verizon WirelessVerizon 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 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