It’s that time of the year. Tornadoes, thunder storms, floods, even man-made disasters – Atlantans have seen it all in recent years. All pose a threat to our technology and our ability to communicate.
Thankfully, AT&T recognizes the importance of reliable communication during a storm or disaster, and that’s why its Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) organization is in downtown Atlanta to conduct a technology recovery demonstration.
While those storms did not pose a major, widespread challenge to the network in Atlanta like, say, Hurricane Sandy did back in October, AT&T knows the best way to make sure their network stays up, is to hold these drills.
Here was what AT&T had to say about this week’s drills.
The drills include establishing emergency communications channels from the site – using equipment such as Emergency Communications Vehicles, satellite COLTs (Cell on Light Trucks), and state-of-the-art trailers. In its two decades of service, the team has been deployed more than 70 times – including recent deployments for recent Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac in Louisiana. The NDR team deployed to Alabama and Tennessee after a series of spring tornadoes swept through the area in 2011.
AT&T thinks Atlanta is the ideal city to run these tests in.
“We chose Atlanta for this exercise, in part, to help local and regional first responders understand NDR’s role in restoring communications for an area impacted by a disaster,” said Mark Francis, VP, Network Operations for AT&T. “NDR exercises are a global effort – they are conducted in the United States and abroad to maintain the readiness of the team and its equipment.”
AT&T is so serious about the NDR program that they have invested more than $600 million in the program since it started in 1991.
“In a major disaster, AT&T wants to recover its own communications office as quickly as possible, and we practice this quite frequently,” said Kelly Morrison, network operations spokesperson. “By using mobile equipment, we can very rapidly deploy into an affected area and bring in critical communications for residents and businesses.
“If we go into an area that is impacted, we have to be self- sufficient,” Morrison adds. “Not only do we bring in the necessary technical equipment to get communications back up and running, but we also bring many of the other resources necessary to be effective for the long-term, whether it be food, hardware and tools, and even hazardous material suits and equipment.”
While AT&T’s NDR team stands ready to face impending emergencies, we also encourage our consumers to have their own back-up communication plans in place. Whether family members are at work or school, in the same home or geographically separated, AT&T reminds consumers to be AWARE — Always Watchful, Alert and Ready in an Emergency.
Follow AT&T’s tips for developing an emergency communications plan and sit down with your family and explain the following:
Create a Plan. Develop an emergency communications plan, including communications methods and individuals to call. Post it on the refrigerator, keep a copy with emergency supplies and provide copies to each family member.
Conduct an Inventory. Know all of the options you have to communicate during an emergency, including all of your family members’ wireless phones and/or your home phone. In an emergency, having a dependable connection to dial 9-1-1 is essential. The more ways you have to contact 9-1-1 and reach emergency assistance, the better. Review existing communications devices and determine whether family members would benefit by adding any services or phones that enable everyone to stay connected.
Compile Vital Information and Equip Family Members. Create a communications safety tool box, which includes a prioritized list (both electronically and hard copy) of phone numbers and e-mail addresses for family members, copies of business cards and personal documents such as passports and copies of birth certificates. Also, make sure that you have easy access to emergency phone numbers such as local hospitals, your personal doctor and your home insurance agent, by programming numbers into your wireless phone or your home phone’s speed dial.
Teach Your Children How to Dial 9-1-1. Children can learn about 9-1-1 and how to stay calm in an emergency at a young age. Make sure your child knows what to do in an emergency. Talk to them about which situations are considered emergencies and the proper use of 9-1-1. Practice dialing 9-1-1 on a home phone handset that is not connected to the phone lines. Establish a “home base,” or a central location where a home phone is stationed so it can be reached quickly to dial for help.
Create IDs. Create photo IDs for every family member using the template available on www.att.com/vitalconnections.
Know Where to Meet. Agree on a physical and secondary meeting place, as well as a virtual place such as a voice mailbox or online chat site.