Emergency responseSprint's preparations for Gustav

Published 2 September 2008

Sprint Nextel invested $59 million in network preparations in coastal communities; bolstering preparations aimed to help both customers and first responders

One of the more poignant failures in both the 9/11 attacks and Katrina was the debilitating collapse of communication systems. In the face of Gustav, we note that one communication company — Sprint — has made its own preparations for this hurricane. We outline these preparations in some detail becasue they show what it takes to shore up communication against failure during disasters. The company said it was preparing for the potential impact of Hurricane Gustav, saying that as is the case with every impending tropical storm or hurricane, it has staged backup generators and personnel in strategic locations along the Gulf Coast to manage potential service impacts. In addition, two Sprint service and repair vans are ready to travel to the impacted markets and assist customers with their wireless needs, including providing service and repair, accessories, back-up batteries, and phone calls to connect with family and friends.

In 2007 Sprint installed permanent generators at more than 1,300 sites throughout the southeast and Gulf Coast. In addition, through the first six months of 2008, Sprint has invested more than $140 million for network enhancements throughout the Gulf Coast states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas).

One of the primary reasons for the loss of wireless service in a hurricane is the loss of commercial power to the cell site. Sprint says it has taken steps to reduce the effect of power loss on its wireless networks. In 2007 Sprint invested $59 million for hurricane preparations in storm-prone coastal communities. This investment included the installation of permanent generators for critical wireless sites and network facilities as well as investment in additional portable generators and Cell Sites on Wheels (COWs) — mobile cell sites that can be deployed in impacted areas to restore service quickly. This equipment provides backup to the networks in the event of power outages or other damage that could result after a hurricane. As a standard practice, Sprint already has permanent generators at all of its wireless and wireline switches, the network components where data and calls are routed to their final destination. In addition, permanent generators are installed at all of the company’s network Points of Presence (POP), the facilities where traffic enters and leaves the company’s global IP network, which facilitates dedicated data services for Sprint’s corporate and government customers as well as other critical communications. These backup generators have automatic cutover switches to immediately neutralize any loss of commercial power.

Customers, too, can take action before a storm hits. Sprint offers the following consumer tips to prepare for a possible landfall:

  • Keep your wireless phone and backup batteries charged, but be aware that an interruption of wireline and commercial power could affect wireless calls.
  • If possible, get extra batteries and charge them.
  • In times of commercial power outages, a car adapter for your wireless phone should enable you to recharge the battery.
  • Keep phones and necessary accessories in a sealed plastic bag to avoid water damage.
  • Load family and emergency numbers into your wireless phone.
  • Wireless networks sometimes experience heavy traffic during emergency events, so remember to use Nextel Direct Connect(R) or send a text message.

Sprint has invested $27 million since 2006 to expand the scope of the Sprint Nextel Emergency Response Team (ERT) — a team which, when created in 2002, was an industry-first and provides critical communications and personnel to assist first responders with relief efforts. In preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, the ERT’s Rapid Deployment Services will deploy additional Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTS), the design of which is proprietary to Sprint Nextel. SatCOLTS help facilitate communications among relief and response agencies. Additional ERT staff members will be pre-staged in the region for any potential disaster response efforts. Sprint’s ERT also has an inventory of over 25,000 devices that can be distributed to government agencies for relief efforts.

For more information about Sprint Nextel hurricane preparation efforts, or to learn what customers can do to prepare for a major storm, visit Sprint’s Web site