Life-saving Preparation: How AT&T Plans for Hurricane Season

May 17, 2017
On display is the new Helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings). It has a 7.5-foot diameter rotor and 2 cellular antennas. In the future, our NDR team hopes that the Helicopter Flying COW will go into areas where a traditional Cell on Wheels can’t go: like areas with hurricane damage or flooding.
On display is the new Helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings). It has a 7.5-foot diameter rotor and 2 cellular antennas. In the future, our NDR team hopes that the Helicopter Flying COW will go into areas where a traditional Cell on Wheels can’t go: like areas with hurricane damage or flooding.

By Chris Sambar, Senior Vice President, AT&T – FirstNet

Hurricane season is fast approaching. And the National Weather Service says an average of 3 hurricanes hit the U.S. coastline every 2 years. The best way to stay safe? Be prepared.

We put that philosophy into practice multiple times a year with exercises that put our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) team and assets to the test.

We recently wrapped up our first NDR exercise of the year in Houston.

We deployed 6 technology recovery trailers, a satellite COLT (Cell on Light Truck), a mobile command center and an emergency communications vehicle. We practiced restoring network service as if there was a real-life disaster.

We also displayed our new Helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings). It has a 7.5-foot diameter rotor and 2 cellular antennas. In the future, our NDR team hopes that the Helicopter Flying COW will go into areas where a traditional Cell on Wheels can’t go: like areas with hurricane damage or flooding.

The Houston Fire Department joined the exercise for a hazardous materials training drill. We assessed damage and checked the environmental conditions in the generator room and cable vault of a mock “contaminated” AT&T Central Office.

In the event of a disaster, we need to know how to best mobilize our people and network technologies as well as how to best collaborate with public safety. Among other things, these exercises help us learn and adapt our strategies for providing connectivity when disasters strike.

With our public-private partnership with FirstNet, we’re preparing to make even more network technologies available to first responders.

We plan to add 72 Satellite COLTs to our fleet to support the FirstNet network. These will be dedicated to first responders and their specific needs during sustained situations where coverage may need to be strengthened. Think search-and-rescue operations following a storm.

As soon as we receive a request, our goal is to assess the situation within the hour to ready our people and technologies for deployment. And we’ll move in lock-step with public safety to deliver the requested network assets quickly and safely.

Another key feature we are bringing to public safety is priority and preemption on the network. We’ll be making these services available to public safety across all AT&T LTE bands. This includes the coverage provided by our NDR technologies. With respect to deployables, this means first responders will be able to take advantage of our full fleet of NDR assets to best support their emergency communications needs. In total, first responders will have access to more than 700 pieces of equipment – including COWs, COLTs, trailers, generators and more – which can be used in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis.

With FirstNet, it’s our mission to deliver the unique capabilities that public safety has been asking for. And we’ll do it on a network that will give them the coverage, experience and value they expect.

We take that mission seriously. The preparations we’re putting in place now will help us keep the public and public safety connected the next time a disaster hits – because as it’s happening is too late. It’s this type of prep that just may mean the difference between life and death.

Click here to read more about our Network Disaster Response.

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