With the Atlantic hurricane season getting underway June 1, AT&T’s local network and Network Disaster Recovery team are ready, and the company is urging South Floridians to prepare too.
AT&T prepares its personnel for the hurricane season with readiness drills and simulations throughout the year. The company has invested $600 million in its Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program, one of the industry’s largest and most advanced. The AT&T NDR program includes more than 320 technology and equipment trailers that can be deployed quickly in the wake of a disaster, such as a hurricane. AT&T is the first private company whose NDR program has been certified by the Department of Homeland Security for private-company voluntary disaster preparedness.
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.
Consumers and businesses also should have a plan in place. When preparing for an evacuation or shelter-in-place, remember these following tips.
- Keep your 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. If you have a working wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports 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 Navigator and 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. Services such as Mobile Workplace are a suggested solution for small businesses.
- 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.
Keeping the lines open for emergencies
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.