Tropical Storm Ida Threatens Panhandle, Gulf Coast; Verizon Wireless Offers Tips To Floridians

TAMPA, FL — With Tropical Storm Ida churning in the Gulf of Mexico and threatening Florida’s Panhandle and Gulf Coast, Verizon Wireless urges residents to finalize their emergency communications plans.

Ida, which entered the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane, currently is expected to make landfall near the Alabama-Florida state line early Tuesday, then move northeast to bring high winds and heavy rain across the Panhandle and northern parts of the state.

Verizon Wireless, which operates the nation’s largest and most reliable wireless voice and 3G data network, offers residents these tips to be safer during strong weather and other emergencies:

  • 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.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers – police, fire, and rescue agencies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. – programmed 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.

When the storm strikes, Verizon Wireless suggests these tips:

  • 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/ news reports available on wireless phone applications when power is out.

“We’ve been fortunate in Florida so far this year, but it is important that residents remain prepared to stay safe and in touch during emergencies,” said Pam Tope, Florida region president for Verizon Wireless. “Residents, especially in the Panhandle, should put their emergency plans into action, just as our teams have been strengthening the network to provide strong coverage and services for the public and public safety agencies.”

Verizon Wireless has continued the intensive investments and preparations that proved critical during and after past years’ storm seasons. In the aftermath of even the most devastating hurricanes, the Verizon Wireless network in Florida remained strong while many other wireless communication networks struggled to serve emergency response officials and residents.

In the Panhandle this year, Verizon Wireless has made dramatic network improvements for former Alltel customers. Verizon Wireless acquired Alltel in January and has invested vast resources in upgrading and integrating Alltel network facilities into the larger, more advanced Verizon Wireless 3G network.

Additional highlights of the Verizon Wireless 2009 Hurricane Season preparation and network enhancement include:

  • Verizon Wireless network technicians traveled 50,000 miles in Florida this past year in six special vehicles equipped with phones, wireless data devices and computers to ensure strong coverage and quality of calls throughout the state.
  • The company has a fleet of dozens of Cells on Wheels (COWs), 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-arranged fuel delivery to mobile units and generators is able to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time.
  • The company erected more than 60 new digital cell sites, of which about 85 percent have their own on-site generators and expanded fuel tanks to extend power-generating capacity.
  • Verizon Wireless optimized regional network switching facilities throughout the state, as well as neared completion of a high-tech $50 million facility in Broward County. These “super switches,” located in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa Bay, are designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and are equipped with large-scale back-up power generation.

These new technologies, facilities and network-strengthening efforts are part of an ongoing investment of $2 billion in Florida since the company was formed in 2000.

For more information, visit the Verizon Wireless Emergency Information Center at

About Verizon WirelessVerizon Wireless operates the nation’s most reliable and largest wireless voice and 3G data network, serving 89 million customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 85,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). For more information, visit 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