Floridians Urged To Prepare Emergency Communications Plans For Peak Hurricane Months

TAMPA, FL — As Floridians enter the peak months of hurricane season, Verizon Wireless reminds residents to have their emergency communications plans in place. The company already has its statewide digital network primed and ready to deliver the most reliable wireless service in case of severe weather, and offers these tips to be safer during hurricane season:

  • 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.

“Historically, the busiest months for hurricanes are August and September, so this is a crucial time for residents to make sure they’ve made essential preparations,” Pam Tope, Florida region president for Verizon Wireless. “We’re all hoping for a quiet hurricane season, but we still want to make sure we can provide the strongest wireless service if any storms head our way. Residents should also be taking steps to ensure their safety before, during and after storms.”

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 text messages rather than voice calls for the same reasons as above.
  • Check weather and news reports available on wireless phone applications when commercial power is out.

During the past 18 months, Verizon Wireless has spent more than $250 million in Florida to strengthen and enhance its wireless network. Highlights of these enhancements include:

  • A comprehensive emergency response plan, including preparing emergency command centers across Florida in the case of a storm or other crisis.
  • A $20 million enhancement to its Tampa Bay switching facility, which doubled its traffic capacity and back-up power redundancies. The facility is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and will serve as the region’s emergency operations center in the event of a storm or other disaster.
  • A new 35-foot $150,000 Disaster Response Trailer to be used as temporary customer service location in areas impacted by a disaster.
  • Erecting about 150 new digital cell sites since the start of last year, of which about 85 percent have their own on-site generators.
  • The company also has a fleet of dozens of Cells on Wheels (COWS) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on trailers (GOaTS) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity.
  • Pre-arranging fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time.
  • The company has expanded its EV-DO wireless broadband network, including launching its highest-speed Rev. A network throughout the state. This allows the most advanced wireless services (downloads, location-based applications, video messaging, etc.) and makes the network more robust for usage by residents and emergency agencies.

While Florida has been spared during the early part of this year’s hurricane season, these kinds of intensive investments and preparations proved critical during the height of extraordinary storm seasons in the late summer and early autumn of 2004 and 2005. In those years, the Verizon Wireless network in Florida remained strong, while many other wireless communication networks struggled to serve residents and emergency response officials.

(Editor’s Note: To accompany a Verizon Wireless Test Man, tour a network facility or obtain broadcast-quality video B-roll and still images of network operations/emergency preparations, contact Chuck Hamby at 813-404-6029).

About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless operates the nation’s most reliable wireless voice and data network, serving 68.7 million customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 70,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). For more information, go to: www.verizonwireless.com. 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 www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia