What AT&T, Sprint, Verizon customers need to know for Florence

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The three major U.S. cellphone carriers are preparing ahead of Hurricane Florence's landfall to help restore communications as quickly as possible for first responders and customers.

AT&T

As Hurricane Florence approaches, AT&T is ensuring residents in the path of the storm have one less thing to worry about. 

AT&T plans to provide unlimited talk, text, and data for AT&T wireless and AT&T PREPAID customers in areas most affected by Hurricane Florence.

When it comes to natural disasters on the scale Hurricane Florence is forecasted to be, AT&T officials said they understand that mutual aid responders from across the country could all be part of public safety’s storm response. Only lifting limitations for first responders in certain states still leaves critical first responders at risk, they said.

FirstNet, which equips first responders for communication, does not throttle subscribers anywhere in the country, they said.

AT&T customers who may be impacted by Hurricane Florence can check back for more information here.

Sprint

Sprint officials said preparations have been underway over the last several days to identify recovery resources (such as equipment, fuel, generators, etc.) and their availability in the area.

Sprint's recovery teams are on stand-by to ensure personnel are available after Florence makes landfall. And they're staging resources such as SatCOLTs (satellite cell sites on light truck) and VSATs (portable satellite systems) inside and outside the projected impacted areas to enable rapid deployment and minimize any disruption of services.

Additional prep ahead of Hurricane Florence:

  • Installed pumps and raised the equipment platforms at flood-prone sites across the area;
  • Added alarms at sites to help identify water intrusion and address any issues prior to equipment being impacted;
  • Performed ongoing maintenance, and ensured fixed and portable generators are topped off with fuel;
  • Reviewed portable generator storage locations and adjusted fleet counts as needed to better support field teams and restoration/recovery efforts;
  • Continued ongoing upgrades to existing cell sites to leverage all three of Sprint’s spectrum bands – providing a larger coverage footprint, and faster, more reliable service;
  • Ensured emergency response equipment such as SatCOLTs (satellite cell sites on light truck) and VSATs (portable satellite systems) are ready to deploy during emergency events;
  • Conducted periodic training and readiness exercises during the year; and
  • Convened more than a thousand Sprint reservists who are on stand-by and ready to jump into action alongside Sprint’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) during a disaster.

How wireless consumers can prepare now and be ready:

  • Make sure you have emergency phone numbers programmed into your mobile devices;
  • Ensure that you have extra batteries and car-chargers for back-up;
  • Have a range of different-sized plastic, re-sealable bags on hand to store your technology devices and accessories in the event of flooding;
  • Stay informed and download storm apps from the Red Cross and FEMA which can provide helpful resources for local area outreach, such as shelter finders and emergency meeting location information;
  • Always keep your wireless devices charged when possible because of the possibility of commercial power loss during or after a storm; and
  • Use text messaging when possible during and after a major weather event due to high call volumes and possible network congestion in the local area.

For more information, visit Sprint's Hurricane Florence blog.

Verizon

Final fine-tuning measures are underway and local Verizon Network teams also are prepared to travel the coast to assist areas hit hardest by the storm. The efforts are part of a year-round plan to make the network strong and reliable during storms and any other circumstances.

Network enhancements in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and across the Southeast Coast since last year's storm season include:

  • expanding and densifying the most advanced 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network
  • adding capacity to hundreds of cell sites
  • fortifying coverage along major roadways
  • putting cell site equipment on stilts to avoid damage due to flooding
  • and installing new in-building network systems at hospitals, government and emergency facilities, high-traffic public venues and other key locations
  • In addition, the company has a number of "switch" network processing centers across the southeast. With hardened shells, these facilities also feature large-scale on-site power generation, various redundant operations and technologies, and other back-up systems to ensure the company's network remains strong, running and reliable.

“Our dedicated team of network engineers works year-round -- and 24/7 during times like these -- to ensure our customers, including first responders, public safety and government officials, can connect when It matters most," said Sergei Mislevy, executive director for network assurance for Verizon Wireless. "We take great pride in providing a superior network experience, especially before, during and after severe weather.”

Other Verizon Wireless ongoing efforts to ensure a reliable network include:

  • preparing emergency command centers in the case of a storm or other crisis
  • readying the company's fleet of mobile equipment including of Cells on Wheels (COWS), Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on a trailers (Goats) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity
  • pre-arranging fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if commercial power is lost for an extended period of time
  • topping off and testing generators and battery backups in cell sites
  • coordinating with local, state and federal emergency services so they have the communications services they need
  • pre-positioning emergency equipment, setting up our local switch location to house our 24x7 command center
  • using the newest technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to survey tower damage after a storm

As part of Verizon’s ongoing commitment to those on the front lines of public safety, all speed caps restrictions have been lifted for first responders in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. In addition, the Verizon Response Team (VRT) has already began providing items like mobile hotspots and phones to public safety and other support teams to make sure they can stay connected, as well pre-staging charging stations and disaster response trailers for deployment where the need will be greatest. VRT is available 24/7/365 and frequently provides assistance during disaster situations.


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