Residents Urged to Finalize Emergency Communication Plans as Hurricane Wilma Threatens Florida

BOCA RATON, FL — As Hurricane Wilma moves through the western Caribbean on a path that is expected to impact Florida, Verizon Wireless has mobilized efforts to ensure reliable wireless phone coverage to residents and emergency agencies throughout the state before, during and after the storm.

These efforts include:

  • Pre-arranging fuel delivery to the company's network switching facilities across the state, 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.

  • Strategically positioning mobile generators, with ready access to roof-top cell sites along the state's coast. (Permanent generators are not allowed on roof-top cell sites due to their fuel source).

  • There are dozens of Cells on Wheels (COWS) on standby statewide, including many at the company's Ft. Lauderdale and Jupiter network switching facilities. These self-powered mobile cell sites are 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 most recent storm seasons, 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 Wilma anywhere the storm might pass.

"As we saw with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and last year here in Florida, wireless communication on our network is critical for the public and emergency agencies as other communication networks go down," said Mike Lanman, Florida region president of Verizon Wireless. "While we still have many personnel in the Gulf Coast helping in the post-Katrina efforts, we're well-prepared to handle this storm and provide citizens and rescue agencies with strong, reliable wireless service."

The Verizon Wireless network has proved to be the state's most reliable, often the only functional communications network for the public, relief agencies and emergency officials during the extraordinary 2004 and 2005 storm seasons. In the wake of last month's devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast, the Verizon Wireless network again held up as often the only operational communication network in many areas.

Florida residents also are urged to make emergency wireless communication plans in advance of Hurricane Wilma, such as:

  • Keep wireless phone batteries fully 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.

  • Send brief text messages rather than voice calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations. Text messages also "queue" up if the wireless system is unavailable, and will be delivered as soon as possible (no need to re-send).

  • Maintain a written list of emergency phone numbers — police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. — and also pre-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.

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

  • Pre-program important account numbers such as insurance policies, bank accounts, etc. into your wireless phone's phonebook, as a back-up source.

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 Chuck Hamby at 813-404-6029.

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