OnStar's Power of Connectivity Comforts Tornado Survivors

May 11, 2011, 15:06 ET from General Motors

DETROIT, May 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- When OnStar Advisors Karen Nolan and LaTonya Jones arrived at work on April 28 during the April Tornado Outbreak, neither expected a typical day. Before their shifts ended, they would help reunite two families affected by the worst week for U.S. tornados in nearly 40 years.

During the severe weather that battered several Southern and Midwestern States, many people were left without electricity, telephones or cellular service. For those with OnStar service, locating loved ones, obtaining shelter information and getting updates on local conditions was possible because OnStar activated Crisis Assist, making extra services available to OnStar subscribers regardless of their plan.

OnStar is designed to maximize cellular coverage with an externally mounted antenna that can often provide a connection when personal cellular phones cannot.

For Jim and Carol Barrile of Toney, Ala., who live less than five miles from Harvest, Ala., where an EF5 tornado touched down and destroyed much of the town, the storm did some major damage to Toney and left it without power for days.  

Carol Barrile wanted to let her children who live out of state know she and Jim were safe. Without a working telephone or mobile phone service, Carol pressed the red OnStar Emergency button on the rearview mirror of her 2011 Chevrolet Impala.

Upon hearing, "OnStar Center, this is Karen, how may I help you?" Carol told Karen her situation and within seconds Karen set up a conference call with Carol's daughter, Suzanne.  

"Her daughter was obviously upset when I first contacted her," Karen said. "She seemed a little fearful about her parents' whereabouts since she hadn't heard from them. But the moment she heard her mom's voice she was relieved.

"I help people every day at work. It's part of my job, but this situation shows we [OnStar] can be there when you need us most."

In Albertville, Ala., another mother was desperate to get in touch with her child.

"When I answered the call, the subscriber was crying. She couldn't find her teenage son and was very worried," said OnStar Advisor LaTonya Jones. "She kept saying she couldn't find 'her baby.' He had gone to work and couldn't be reached after the storm hit.  I had to do everything I could to help her find him."

As the subscriber's only connection, LaTonya made courtesy calls to his job, local police and fire departments as well as friends in hopes of locating the teen.  

"Even the local public safety answering points were unreachable. Just when I was going to dial the police station in the next town over, her son walked through the door. She was overjoyed and thankful."

Since 1996, OnStar has been an in-vehicle lifeline for those in need. From helping to unlock the doors of a vehicle with a young child trapped inside to providing emergency responders the exact location of a collision, OnStar Advisors answer an average of 10,000 Emergency Service calls each month.

OnStar combines the power of human connections with unparalleled expertise. Building on more than 15 years of service and nearly 360 million customer interactions, OnStar Advisors are specially trained to handle emergency situations and are available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

About OnStar

OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, value-added mobility services and advanced information technology. Currently available on more than 40 MY 2011 GM models, OnStar soon will be available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road through local electronics retailers, including Best Buy. OnStar safely connects its more than six million subscribers, in the U.S., Canada and China, in ways never thought possible. More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com.

SOURCE General Motors