MOBILE, Ala., June 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.
"Communication is critical when severe weather disrupts our day to day routines. That's why AT&T invests an enormous amount of time and energy in our network reliability and disaster response capabilities," said Fred McCallum, president, AT&T Alabama. "We know people count on their service when bad weather hits, so we work hard to ensure customers can stay connected with friends, family and neighbors by making a phone call, texting or accessing the Internet."
AT&T's response capabilities are part of its Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program, a cutting edge system the company created in 1991 to provide the capability to rapidly respond to events that impact our network, including catastrophic acts of nature. Since that time, AT&T has invested more than $600 million in the NDR and activated it more than 20 times, including the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Hurricane Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy last year.
The NDR arsenal of equipment includes 300 technology and equipment trailers that can be quickly deployed, making it one of the nation's largest and most advanced disaster programs. Last year, AT&T received the Department of Homeland Security's Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Program (PS-Prep) certification. The PS-Prep certification reflects AT&T's commitment to planning so that we can minimize any disruption to our networks in the face of a natural or man-made disaster so consumers, businesses and emergency responders can communicate during and after these events.
The Network Disaster Recovery team works closely with other AT&T response teams (e.g., power and wireless), local AT&T network personnel, regional Emergency Operations Centers and Local Response Centers to restore and maintain service until permanent repairs can be made.
The ability to quickly respond in the wake of a disaster is critical to maximizing network reliability. AT&T conducts readiness drills and simulations throughout the year to ensure our networks are prepared and our personnel are ready to respond at a moment's notice. NDR will complete its 70th full-field recovery exercise this year. Additionally, the AT&T Global Network Operations Center monitors our networks 24/7.
AT&T has continued to enhance network capabilities in hurricane-prone areas by various proactive steps such as installing more back-up and permanent generators at critical cell sites and switching facilities; locating critical equipment in less vulnerable areas; upgrading electronics critical to network operations above expected flood levels; and protecting physical facilities against flooding.
Additional 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.
- Using natural gas in some of the permanent generators to eliminate the need to refuel.
- Staging generators in safe locations for their immediate deployment once a storm has passed.
Response equipment readied in the wake of an event includes:
- Mobile cell sites and mobile command centers
- Emergency communications vehicles
- A self-sufficient base camp, complete with sleeping tents, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry facilities, on-site nurse and meals ready to eat (MREs)
- Hazmat equipment and supplies
- Technology and support trailers to provide infrastructure support and mobile heating ventilation and air conditioning
- Internal and external resources for initial assessment and recovery efforts
Just as we prepare our networks and personnel, AT&T encourages residents and small businesses to consider the following recommendations in preparation for this year's hurricane season.
- Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as using your car charger to charge your device or having extra mobile phone batteries on hand.
- 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.
- 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. If you have a working wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports through services like AT&T U-verse Live TV or keep updated with local radar and severe weather alerts through My-Cast® Weather, if you subscribe to those services.
- 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. For this to be most effective, maintain an updated contact list, including mobile and home phone numbers and e-mail addresses, for all employees.
- Protect hardware/software/data records/employee records, etc. Routinely back up these files to an off-site location. Use a generator for supplying backup power to vital computer hardware and other mission-critical equipment. Prearrange the replacement of damaged hardware with vendors to ensure quick business recovery.
- 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.
Maximizing Service During and After a Hurricane:
- Try 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.
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