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Storms Churn In Atlantic While Claudette Rains On Panhandle; Verizon Wireless Offers Tips To Floridians


TAMPA, FL — With tropical storms Ana and Bill churning in the Atlantic Ocean, and Claudette dumping rain on the Panhandle as it moves further inland, Floridians are urged to finalize their emergency communication plans as the 2009 Hurricane Season heats up with its first three named storms. Verizon Wireless, which operates the nation’s largest and most reliable wireless network, offers residents these tips to be safer during strong weather and other emergencies:

* Keep wireless phone batteries fully charged – in case local power is lost – well before warnings are issued.
* Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.
* Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
* Keep a list of emergency phone numbers – police, fire, and rescue agencies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. – programmed into your phone.
* Distribute wireless phone numbers to family members and friends.
* Forward your home phone calls to your wireless number if you will be away from your home or have to evacuate.
* If a storm already is striking or threatening, Verizon Wireless suggests these tips:
* Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations.
* Send brief text messages rather than voice calls for the same reasons as above.
* Check weather/ news reports available on wireless phone applications when power is out.

“Thorough preparation is the key to staying safe and in touch during emergencies,” said Pam Tope, Florida region president for Verizon Wireless. “Residents should take prudent steps now, just as our teams have been preparing the network to provide strong coverage and services to residents and emergency responders, no matter the situation.”

Verizon Wireless has continued the intensive investments and preparations that proved critical during and after past years’ storm seasons. In the aftermath of even the most devastating hurricanes, the Verizon Wireless network in Florida remained strong while many other wireless communication networks struggled to serve emergency response officials and residents.

Additional highlights of the Verizon Wireless 2009 Hurricane Season preparation and network enhancement include:

* A comprehensive emergency response plan, including preparing emergency command centers across Florida in the case of a storm or other crisis.
* Verizon Wireless network technicians traveled nearly 50,000 miles across the state this past year in six vehicles ($250,000 each equipped with phones, wireless data devices and computers) to measure the quality of calls on Verizon Wireless and other carriers.
* The company has a fleet of dozens of Cells on Wheels (COWS), Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on 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 power is lost for an extended period of time.
* Erecting during the past year more than 90 new digital cell sites, of which about 85 percent have their own on-site generators and new expanded fuel tanks to extend their power-generating capacity.
* The completion of the Verizon Wireless 3G high-speed wireless network throughout the state, allowing customers to access advanced wireless services more reliably and at even faster broadband speeds.
* Updating and optimizing technology at regional network switching facilities throughout the state, as well as nearing completion of a high-tech $50 million switching facility in west Broward County. The new “super switch,” which will be completed late this year, will reinforce wireless network capacity and help enhance services for customers throughout South Florida. All the company’s super switches, also located in Jacksonville, Orlando and the Tampa Bay area, are designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and are equipped with large-scale back-up power generation.

These new technologies, facilities and network-strengthening efforts are part of an investment of $2 billion in Florida since the company was formed in 2000.


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