Tropical Storm Ernesto Threatens Florida, Residents Urged to Make Emergency Communications Plans

BOCA RATON, FL — Florida residents, businesses and visitors are urged to finalize emergency communications plans as Tropical Storm Ernesto is expected to become a hurricane and threaten the Keys and other parts of the state.

Verizon Wireless, which made intensive preparations to maintain strong network coverage during the extraordinary storm seasons of 2004 and 2005, offers residents these tips to be safer during hurricanes and other times of crisis:

  • Keep wireless phone batteries fully charged — in case local power is lost — well before warnings are issued.

  • 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.

"We've seen that preparation equals performance in emergencies as well as everyday, and we want to help residents communicate and stay safe before, during and after storms," said Mike Lanman, Verizon Wireless Florida region president.

The company also urges the following actions once a storm is on the way:

  • 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 phones applications when power is out.

Verizon Wireless has continued the comprehensive preparations and large investments that helped its stand up well to the extraordinary storm seasons of 2004 and 2005.

These efforts include:

  • Fine-tuning the company's digital network across the state to add call capacity in threatened areas before the storm hits.

  • Rolling out teams of "test men" in specially-equipped vehicles to check the network before and after storms.

  • About 80 percent of Verizon Wireless transmission sites in Florida have their own generators to keep the network operating during power outages.

  • Strategically positioning fleets of mobile generators and mobile cell sites to be deployed immediately in any hard-hit areas. The company has numerous Cells on Wheels (COWS) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), which are self-powered transmitters that can be rolled into areas that need extra network capacity.

  • Pre-arranging fuel delivery to the mobile units and generators at permanent cell sites to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time.

  • The company recently completed a $40 million, 36,000-square-foot switching facility near Orlando to serve as a main emergency operations center. The structure is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and is equipped with system redundancies and large-scale back-up power generation. Similar network operations facilities are located in Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Jupiter.

The new Orlando facility and other network-strengthening efforts are part of an investment exceeding $1 billion in Florida alone over the past six years. Nationally, Verizon Wireless has spent more than $30 billion during that time to build and strengthen its digital wireless network.

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Editors: Video footage of Verizon Wireless' network preparations is available in the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at

About Verizon Wireless Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 54.8 million voice and data customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, 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