IRVINE, Calif.—With the 2022 wildfire season getting an early and devastating start with record breaking fires in the American Southwest, Verizon has laid out some of its plans to be able to continue to provide crucial communications to communities and first responders during wildfire, extreme weather and other natural disasters
With the hottest and driest months of the 2022 wildfire season still ahead and experts predicting another active fire season, teams of Verizon engineers have been preparing by running emergency drills, testing fiber and cell site readiness, and ensuring recovery equipment is in place, the telco said.
Verizon Frontline and the Verizon Frontline Response Team also have been working to ensure that they can provide first responders on the front lines of potential disaster response efforts with portable gear that will allow them to maintain mission-critical communications.
Verizon said that it maintains a fleet of over 500 portable assets, including fully functional, generator-powered cells sites that can replace or enhance network coverage and capacity in a given area as well as drones and a fixed wing aircraft that can provide service from the sky above.
Verizon also has 150 satellite-based portable network assets that can be used in case fiber connection is lost due to loss of commercial power or physical damage. Those assets include mid-Earth orbit and geosynchronous assets. All of those mobile assets are complemented by nearly a thousand portable generators and a comprehensive refueling program.
The use of battery and generator backup systems in critical locations such as macro cell sites, switch locations and network operations centers also serve to minimize the risk of disruption if commercial power is lost, the company said. All of Verizon macro cell sites have backup battery power and 78% have backup generators.
Verizon engineers have also been preparing for the coming season by ensuring fuel levels are high on all generators at cell sites, testing battery back-ups at network facilities, positioning extra equipment in case additional capacity is needed, and prepping emergency crews to respond quickly to any network issue.
Verizon noted that in 2021, Verizon teams responded to 128 named wildfires, delivering more than 2,000 Verizon Frontline solutions to first responders in nearly 200 communities across 16 states.
Composed of many former first responders and military veterans, the Verizon Frontline Response Team is available 24/7 to deliver Verizon Frontline technologies including portable cell sites, drones, charging stations, WiFi hotspots, and other Verizon Frontline devices and solutions that enable communications and/or boost network performance, the company said.
The telco also stressed that Verizon’s retail team stands ready to assist customers and ensure they have the right devices, accessories and connectivity they’ll need to prepare for extended power outages, mandatory evacuation orders, and other extreme circumstances.
When wildfire risk is high, Verizon also issued these recommendations:
- Keep devices protected: While many phones today are some degree of water resistant, you still want to take some extra care to ensure phones, tablets, batteries, chargers and other equipment remain dry and accessible. Plastic zipper storage bags help shield devices, and there are weatherproof phones, phone cases and other protective accessories available.
- Keep devices fully charged: Make sure your device is ready when you need it by keeping phone and tablet batteries fully charged in case commercial power goes out.
- Get some backup: When power is out for an extended period of time, portable battery packs can be a game-changer to ensure you remain connected. Don’t forget your car chargers as well in case you need to evacuate.
- Create a list: Keep a list of emergency numbers in your phone so that you have them if needed.
- Be prepared for loss: Take pictures of valuables and other important belongings for possible insurance claims. And make sure they’re uploaded to the cloud so you have a backup.
- Review checklists: Review the wildfire safety recommendations and other resources from the American Red Cross.
- Download useful apps: There are plenty of free wildfire notification, weather, news, and safety-related apps available for download to your smartphone.
For businesses and government agencies, Verizon recommended:
- Make sure you have contact information updated and readily available for all employees, including at-home information for remote workers and branch information for satellite offices.
- Stress-test primary and backup networks and shore up any weak areas
- Make copies of insurance documents, review insurance coverages and update as appropriate.
- Ensure employees working from home have documented all corporate equipment being used to work from home in case of damage or loss.
- Ensure backup plans are in place to shift work in case work-from-home employees in a fire-impacted area have to evacuate their home or their home loses commercial power for an extended period.
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.