While the latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts as many as seven hurricanes are expected to form in the Atlantic this summer, Cellular South has prepared its wireless network and workforce for a wide range of disasters, including major weather events such as hurricanes.
The company routinely reviews and updates its emergency preparedness plans and conducts drills throughout the year to test the readiness of its network and back up systems. "Our preparations are designed to give customers maximum reliability from their wireless phones at the time of greatest need," said Trey Howard, director of Network Operations for Cellular South. "When disaster strikes, people depend on their wireless phones as a lifeline to the outside world, not just for a day, but for weeks and sometimes even months at a time."
Those preparations and network investments proved critical in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, killing 1,500 people and causing $80 billion in damage. With most other carriers' wireless networks destroyed or seriously damaged by the onslaught of Katrina, Cellular South played a vital communications role in the days following the storm, carrying over 2.6 million calls a day only a few days after the storm hit and logging a 470 percent increase in the number of minutes used by customers of other wireless carriers on its network.
"For many of our Mississippi customers and others as well, Cellular South was the first and only means of communication available during and after Hurricane Katrina," Howard said. "We want our customers to know that we stand ready to respond to whatever circumstances come their way."
Howard said the wireless carrier's 1,000-member workforce along with the company's network resources will be on "high alert" throughout the 2009 hurricane season, which officially begins on Monday, June 1 and runs through November. Cellular South also stands ready to activate its Emergency Response Plan, which guides the deployment of company resources and personnel during a crisis.
Since 2006, Cellular South has invested over $350 million to bolster the Mississippi portion of its network on new technologies, facilities and network-strengthening efforts, including:
- $8 million in equipment and system upgrades along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help improve wireless communications in the event of another hurricane.
- $3 million in microwave technology to help circumvent damaged or destroyed landline telecommunications systems and ensure wireless calls can be routed to their eventual destination.
- $3 million to install more than 200 permanent generators in cell sites so the network and customers are not affected by commercial power outages.
- $6 million for a new super switch facility in Hattiesburg, Miss. to further increase capacity for voice and data services throughout south Mississippi. The facility, designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, is equipped with large-scale built-in battery back-up and heavy-duty power generators.
- Expansion this year of the company's high-speed 3G mobile broadband network in 78 cities across 26 counties with activation of 173 new 3G sites in south and east Mississippi and the Delta, including the cities of Cleveland, Greenville, Greenwood, Grenada, Meridian, Natchez, Brookhaven and McComb.
- Erection of 75 new cell sites this year with on-site generators and expanded fuel tanks to extend power-generating capacity.
The company is coordinating its emergency response preparations with local, state and federal agencies, including the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the office of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
About Cellular South
Cellular South is a privately owned diversified mobile communications company passionately committed to helping customers get the most out of their wireless devices and services. The nation's largest privately owned wireless communications provider accomplishes this goal by providing the most reliable and advanced 3G nationwide wireless voice and data network, offering industry-leading family and unlimited flat rate voice, text and mobile web plans, and through its online and in-store Discover Centers, which give customers easy, simple and convenient tools, tips, advice and information on how to get the most out of their mobile phone. For more information, go to www.cellularsouth.com.