AT&T Prepares for Hurricane season with exercise and Hazmat Drill in Houston

AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) organization is holding a technology recovery exercise in Houston and a hazmat drill with the Houston Fire Department.

The operator will display our newest Flying COW (Cell on Wings) for the first time in Houston. The helicopter Flying COW has a 7.5-foot diameter rotor and 2 cellular antennas on board. The purpose of the drone is to beam LTE coverage from the drone to a designated area on the ground.

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AT&T IS developing this Flying COW so that in the future, it could be used by the NDR team to provide coverage for first responders and customers if the network is damaged during a disaster. It could be used in areas where damaged or flooded roadways would prevent a traditional COW from being deployed.

The Flying COW can be deployed and moved quickly to accommodate rapidly changing conditions, such as following a quickly moving wildfire line.

In total, the NDR team is deploying 20 pieces of network recovery and support equipment in Houston. Employees will practice turning up equipment to restore network service as if there were a real-life disaster. This includes:

  • Six technology recovery trailers (53-foot semi-tractor trailers capable of restoring an entire core network building).
  • A Satellite COLT (Cell on Light Truck) – Portable cell site that links to the AT&T network via satellite if wired communications are damaged or unavailable.
  • A mobile command center and an Emergency Communications Vehicle.
  • Search Dogs – AT&T works with the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and search dogs will be on-site demonstrating search and recovery skills.

The operator will be increasing the NDR fleet with new deployables to support the nationwide public safety broadband network that is build with FirstNet. Once available, the additional deployables will help first responders stay connected during emergencies and operate faster, safer and more effectively when lives are on the line. The deployables featured at this exercise will showcase a sampling of the dedicated technologies that first responders will have access to should their state opt-in to the FirstNet network.

The hazmat drill will take place at a nearby AT&T facility. The AT&T hazmat team will work with the Houston Fire Department to conduct hazardous materials training drills. During the drill, team members will work together to practice damage assessments and check environmental conditions in the generator room and cable vault. The team will be wearing Level A and Level B protective equipment for the drills.

In its two decades of service, the team has been deployed more than 75 times – including recent deployments for flood response in Baton Rouge and for Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The NDR team deployed on September 11, 2001, following the New York City World Trade Center disaster – recovering the services of a destroyed network office and providing emergency communications support for humanitarian efforts.

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