AT&T is committed to providing its customers reliable communications during the upcoming hurricane season – before, during and after storms – and has one of the industry’s largest and most advanced disaster response programs to keep its networks operational.
With $600 million invested in the Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program, AT&T’s arsenal of equipment includes more than 320 technology and equipment trailers that can be quickly deployed, making it one of the nation’s largest and most advanced disaster programs.
“Staying connected during and after severe weather events is critically important to consumers, businesses and our emergency management officials,” said Ray Flores, regional vice president for Puerto Rico and USVI.
The recovery program team works closely with other AT&T response teams, local AT&T network personnel, regional emergency operations centers and local response centers to fortify network facilities and equipment, and stage technicians and resources near the storm impact area. In the event of damage, teams are poised to restore and maintain service until permanent repairs can be made.
AT&T also conducts readiness drills and simulations throughout the year to ensure its networks are prepared and its personnel are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
AT&T standard pre-storm network preparations typically include:
• Adding capacity to the wireless network to accommodate increased call volume.
• Testing the high-capacity backup batteries located at cell sites.
• Staging extended battery life and portable generators and maintaining existing fixed generators.
• Topping off generators with fuel at cell sites and central and field-level switching facilities.
Response equipment readied in the wake of an event includes:
• Mobile cell sites and mobile command centers
• Emergency Communications equipment
• Internal and external resources for initial assessment and recovery efforts.
Consumers and businesses also should have a plan in place. When preparing for an evacuation or shelter-in-place, remember these following tips:
Keep wireless phone batteries charged at all times. In case of a power outage, have alternate means of charging your phone available, such as an extra battery, car charger or device-charging accessory. Sales tax holidays are a great time to stock up on cell phone accessories for your household.
Keep your wireless phone dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering, such as an Otterbox phone cover.
Have a family communication plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain that all family members know who to contact if they get separated. Most importantly, practice your emergency plan in advance.
Program all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
Forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. Because call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get incoming calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted at your home. In the unlikely event that the central office is not operational, services such as voicemail, call forwarding, remote access call forwarding and call forwarding busy line/don’t answer may be useful.
Track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device. Many homes lose power during severe weather.
Camera phones provide assistance. If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos — even video clips — of damaged property to your insurance company from your device.
Take advantage of location-based mapping technology. Services such as AT&T Navigator and AT&T FamilyMap can help you seek evacuation routes or avoid traffic congestion from downed trees or power lines, as well as track a family member’s wireless device in case you get separated.
Small Business Tips:
Set up a call-forwarding service to a predetermined backup location. Set up a single or multiple hotline number(s) for employees, employees’ families, customers and partners, as appropriate, to call so that all parties know about the business situation and emergency plan.
Back up data to the Cloud. Routinely back up files to an off-site location.
Outline detailed plans for evacuation and shelter-in-place plans. Practice these plans (employee training, etc.). Establish a backup location for your business and meeting place for all employees.
Assemble a crisis-management team and coordinate efforts with neighboring businesses and building management. Be aware that disasters affecting your suppliers also affect your business. Outline a plan for supply chain continuity for business essentials.
Consider a back-up cellular network. Services like AT&T Remote Mobility Zone, allows organizations to protect their critical communications by installing small cell sites at the businesses’ locations. If a disaster disables primary communications networks, the back-up cellular network can help keep your company connected.
During evacuations, the storm event and its aftermath, network resources will likely be taxed. To help ensure that emergency personnel have open lines, keep these tips in mind:
• Text messaging. During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources. All of AT&T’s wireless devices are text messaging capable. Depending on your text or data plan, additional charges may apply.
Be prepared for high call volume. During an emergency, many people are trying to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume may create network congestion, leading to “fast busy” signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.
Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum, and limit your calls to the most important ones. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.
Additional information and tips for disaster preparedness can be found at www.att.com/vitalconnections.