June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season and AccuWeather anticipates this season will bring 12-14 storms, five to seven of which could become hurricanes and two to four of which could become major hurricanes. But it only takes one storm to change lives forever. With damage from hurricanes Michael, Florence, Maria, Irma and Harvey still clearly visible, hurricane-prone areas have been preparing for what could come.
Over the last several hurricanes, the importance of consistent, reliable communication has been emphasized repeatedly as emergency managers, first responders and storm survivors have depended on Verizon’s network to stay connected with loved ones and critical emergency resources when those connections were needed most.
“During emergencies, the reliability and availability of our network is imperative for critical communications for families and mission critical work for small businesses and enterprise customers,” said Genia Wilbourn, Senior Vice President of Network Operations at Verizon. “Our engineers work tirelessly during severe weather seasons, and all year long to ensure our customers, and especially our first responders, have the communication tools in place when needed most.”
How we’ve prepared to support first responders, local governments and residents
Verizon prepares year-round to ensure we are ready for all emergencies. In addition to normal storm season preparations, this year Verizon is adding a fleet of new satellite-equipped portable cell sites and has secured dedicated satellite links for connection.
“All cell sites are connected to the network by either fiber or microwave technology,” continued Wilbourn. “If fiber or microwave is damaged due to sustained winds, storm surge or manual fiber cuts during post-storm recovery work, communications can be impacted. But with satellite-enabled portable equipment and dedicated satellite links, along with the fleet of portable generators to keep us running without commercial power, we are prepared for all situations.”
Additionally, Verizon has made the following preparations:
- Backups to the backups: We have backup generators, HVAC systems and fiber rings at cell sites and switching centers to keep the network running and customers connected when commercial power is lost or water damage occurs
- Refueling strategy: We pre-arrange fuel deliveries in case of a storm, with tankers poised and in position to quickly respond to hard-hit areas in case commercial power is lost
- Year-round preparation: We run Emergency Operation Center drills throughout the year to ensure our team is ready and equipped to respond to emergencies
- Support for first responders: When disaster strikes, our Verizon Response team is available 24/7/365 and coordinates with first responders. We can mobilize charging stations, devices, special equipment, emergency vehicles and more to support local, state and federal agencies across the US
- Support for the community: We have mobile Wireless Emergency Communications Centers, Tactical Command Trailers, and Response Trailers ready to deploy to support first responders and community members with recovery efforts
- Use of drones: We have surveillance drones on standby to help assess and respond to damage from a storm, and we have drones that can deliver cellular service to a designated area from the sky
- Partnering with AccuWeather to ensure we have the most up-to-date weather forecasts, news and information, as well as insights on the impacts of severe weather. Visit www.AccuWeather.com for seasonal tips and content to help navigate the 2019 hurricane and tropical storm season.
How businesses and government organizations can prepare and stay connected
It’s important for businesses and governments to prepare for hurricane season as well. We offer customers products and services that can help disaster-proof their communications, helping enable continuity in their operations. For example, our Mobile Connectivity Trailer can create a wireless coverage area if coverage is not available. We also offer wireless routers with automatic fall over if the wired broadband connection is disrupted.
It’s also a good time to review your readiness plans. Businesses and government organizations can help prepare by doing the following:
- Make sure you have contact information updated and readily available for all employees
- Make copies of insurance documents and review insurance coverages and update as appropriate
- Preplan evacuation routes and make sure employees know the best way to exit the building safely
- For more on business continuity and emergency planning, visit www.ready.gov. Small businesses can find information through the Small Business Administration
How you can prepare: Do you have a personal communications plan?
The beginning of hurricane season is a great time to take a minute and ensure you are ready for the season too. AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Tropical Storm Expert Dan Kottlowski says everyone living in hurricane-prone areas should have a hurricane and communications plan in place and lists are important. Families, businesses and communities need to be ready.
“Now is the time to start planning,” said Kottlowski. “What would you take if you had one hour to evacuate as opposed to 24 hours? Do you know where you would evacuate to and if the shelter would welcome your pet? Do you need prescription refills? What about cash if ATMs are not functioning? There are so many decisions and considerations families must make in an instant. The more we think about it ahead of time and write out a plan, the better prepared we are if the worst occurs.”
Kottlowski added that AccuWeather’s free app can be downloaded in advance and is an excellent resource for tracking storms and receiving severe weather alerts. For additional helpful tips and content to navigate hurricane season and extreme weather, check out www.AccuWeather.com.
We encourage you to take these steps to ensure your loved ones are ready to communicate during a storm:
- Ensure all battery-powered devices are fully charged before the storm hits. This includes wireless phones and smartphones, laptops, tablets, flashlights and radios
- Program your smartphone to receive emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are free wireless notifications that are delivered to your mobile device by local/national public safety organizations
- Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers and email addresses, including police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; and family, friends and co-workers. Program them into your phone, smartphone, tablet or laptop and also have a hard copy handy, someplace easily accessible
- Backup your information on Verizon Cloud – Verizon offers backup assistance through the Verizon Cloud to store your phone’s address book and contact information as well as pictures and other content on a secure server
- Download weather applications and alerts that provide users with a variety of information such as radar images, forecasts and severe storm warnings
- Wireless devices can be a key source of information and communication in the event of an emergency, so be sure to keep phones, tablets, laptops, batteries, chargers and other equipment in dry, accessible locations like re-sealable plastic bags, dry bags or waterproof cases
- In case of evacuation, make sure you know where your chargers are, both wall and vehicle charging cords, and have portable device chargers fully charged and next to your device
- Record video/take photos of your possessions in your residence before severe weather hits
We want you to be safe this hurricane season. Being crisis-ready and crisis-proven is central to Verizon. Reliability is in our DNA and we will continue to work year-round to ensure you can count on us to stay connected.