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Disaster Response

Materiality Assessment Topics: Network reliability; products and services that enable social and environmental benefit

Issue Summary

As a member of local and global communities, a company’s resources can play an important role in disaster relief efforts. Information and communication technology companies have the added task of maintaining communications to and from impacted areas. 

Our Position

When disaster strikes, our company and our employees assist victims and affected communities through business continuity planning, network preparedness, disaster response, corporate giving, employee support and volunteerism.

Data Highlights

2016 Key Performance Indicators
  • Investment in Network Disaster Recovery Program — cumulative since 1992: >$600M
  • Working hours spent on Network Disaster Recovery field exercises — cumulative since 1992: >145,000


Our Action

The AT&T Business Continuity Management Program includes management disciplines, processes, and techniques to support AT&T’s essential business processes in the event of a significant business disruption. AT&T has a team of industry-leading, certified, and experienced business continuity experts engaged in AT&T’s internal business continuity management program. This team requires that key business processes have documented business continuity plans that are updated and exercised on a predetermined schedule. AT&T’s Business Continuity Management Program is certified to the international business continuity standard ISO 22301:2012. It is also aligned with the Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) Professional Practices, Business Continuity Institute Good Practice Guidelines, Department of Homeland Security National Incident Management System, and ISO 31000. AT&T is aligned with these standards demonstrating its capability to resume business operations and delivery of customer service in the vital hours and days after a disaster. In the event of a disaster or other emergency, we may implement procedures to quickly restore network functionality, field customer inquiries, and service the communities in which we operate.

To review our Program Handbook, visit AT&T Vital Connections.

Network Preparedness 

Even before disaster strikes, AT&T takes steps to prepare network infrastructure. When our network teams build cell sites in disaster-prone areas, all cell sites are built to meet or exceed state structural standards. Regular analysis is conducted to help ensure our cell sites can withstand earthquake loads, wind, ice and other environmental factors. Based on analysis by professional engineers, upgrades or modifications are completed to maintain safe, reliable tower capacity and meet or exceed all building codes. We also deploy high-capacity battery backup to our cell sites, which allows them to remain in service in the event of a power loss. To prepare our network for natural disasters, we regularly test the high-capacity backup batteries located at every site and take steps to ensure fixed generators are fueled on a regular basis.

As an information technology and communications company, we have a unique role to play in disaster preparedness and response in the event the network is damaged. The ability to call first responders or check-in with family members after a disaster is of critical importance. That is one of the many reasons why we have invested billions of dollars in our networks — to help prepare for natural disasters. Network investments improve network reliability every day, including during and after disasters. Through our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) organization, we bring critical resources to help ensure the flow of both wireless and wired communications during times of need, all backed by centralized command and control designed to optimize effectiveness and efficiency.

We are committed to on-the-ground testing. We have conducted 77 full-scale recovery exercises in the field, which are vital to testing our equipment and abilities. In May 2016, NDR conducted a full technology recovery drill in Chicago, IL. In addition, NDR’s Special Operations (hazmat) team conducted a joint exercise with the Philadelphia Fire Department in October 2016, with the New York City Fire Department in October 2015, and with local responders in North Carolina in May 2015. These drills help local and regional first responders understand NDR’s role and abilities and maintain the readiness of the team and its equipment. AT&T is proactive about minimizing weather-related network issues through our Weather Operations Center identifying potential nature-related threats to our network, employees, and communities. These exercises, and the AT&T Weather Operations Center capabilities, help enable us to minimize damages and mobilize our response more quickly.

To learn more about network preparedness, read our issue brief on network reliability.

Network Response & Technology

We have invested more than $600 million in our NDR program since 1992, which includes specially trained managers, engineers and technicians from across the United States, as well as a fleet of more than 290 self-contained equipment trailers and support vehicles.

We monitor and maintain our networks 24/7 and conduct several readiness drills throughout the year to help ensure that our networks and personnel are prepared to respond quickly. When disaster strikes, our employees work around the clock to keep the network up and running. The NDR team has more than 30 permanent members in the United States and the United Kingdom, with 125 volunteer members in the U.S. and abroad who have other full-time jobs within AT&T. In 2016, we worked on-site in California and New York State to provide wildfire support, in West Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida following severe flooding, and in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew’s landfall.

We also offer products and services to assist government agencies when disaster strikes. These situations often require collaboration among state and local government sectors to help responding agencies maintain understanding of local, state and national news and events. AT&T Telepresence Solution®, for example, connects physically separated individuals across a building, city, state or nation; serving as the medium for planning, response and recovery actions. To support public safety efforts such as disaster and pandemic response or carrying out essential training and events, telepresence allows individuals to see eye-to-eye when physical face-to-face communication is not possible.

For more information, visit our State and Local Government Solutions site or our telepresence solution handbook, “When Time Matters Most: A State and Local Government Guide to Staying Connected in Times of Crisis,” which outlines various scenarios related to crisis situations and recommends ways that AT&T can help.

To see our work in action, visit AT&T Vital Connections.

Employee Action & Corporate Giving

Maintaining the reliability of our network is only part of our disaster response strategy. In 2016, our employees volunteered to help victims affected by state and federally declared disasters. For example, AT&T Pioneers, a network of AT&T volunteers in the U.S., and the AT&T Foundation Employee Disaster Relief Fund donated more than $1.1 million in disaster relief aid to assist active and retired employees who were affected by Hurricane Matthew and other severe storms in Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.

In 2016, AT&T’s corporate and foundation disaster relief giving totaled more than $800,000 and provided support for the American Red Cross, United Way, Team Rubicon, Americares Foundation and Télécoms Sans Frontières. These funds supported victims and communities affected by flooding in Louisiana, Missouri, and Houston, TX, Hurricane Matthew in NC, SC, GA, and FL, wildfires in California, as well as earthquake relief in Ecuador. AT&T’s funding of Télécoms Sans Frontières supports international emergency telecommunications services in areas impacted by natural disasters and enables affected populations and relief workers to connect to critical resources. AT&T is also a member of the Red Cross Disaster Responder Program, which ensures the Red Cross is on-site immediately following a disaster and is able to use resources efficiently to assist anyone in need.

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Updated on: Aug 17, 2017

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