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Disaster Response

Materiality Assessment Topic: Disaster response and relief; Giving & philanthropy; Network reliability; Volunteerism; Products & 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 affected areas. 

Our Position

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

Data Highlights


Our Action

AT&T is the first company nationwide to receive the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (U.S. DHS) “Private Sector Preparedness Program” (PS-Prep™) certification. This certification shows that AT&T can maintain or recover its own business operations when disaster strikes. The PS-Prep program helps us better plan for, respond to and recover from disasters and threats. For both man-made and naturally caused disasters, AT&T is prepared to support and assist victims and affected communities through network preparedness, network response & technology, employee action and corporate giving.

To see our work in action, 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’s one of the many reasons why we’ve invested billions of dollars in our networks — to help prepare for natural disasters. Network investments make our networks more reliable 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 “practice on pavement” vs. “on paper.” We have conducted more than seventy-five 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 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. Our Weather Operations Center helps us to keep an eye on potential nature-related threats to our network, our employees and our communities. These exercises, and the AT&T Weather Operations Center capabilities, help enable us to minimize damages and mobilize our response even faster. 

To learn more, 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 that house the same equipment and components as our data-routing or voice-switching centers.

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 more than 100 volunteer members in the United States and abroad who have other full-time jobs in AT&T. In the first half of 2016, we deployed to California and New York State to provide wildfire support and to West Virginia following severe flooding.

We also offer products and services to assist governments 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. Supporting 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 online; our telepresence solution handbook, “When Time Matters Most: A State and Local Government Guide to Staying Connected in Times of Crisis,” outlines various scenarios related to crisis situations and recommends ways that AT&T can help.

For more information, visit www.att.com/ndr.

Employee Action & Corporate Giving

Ensuring network reliability is only half of our disaster response efforts. In 2015, our employees reached out to help disaster victims affected by state and federally declared disasters. In the United States, AT&T Pioneers, a network of AT&T volunteers, and the AT&T Foundation Employee Disaster Relief Fund donated more than $100,000 in disaster relief aid to assist employees and retired employees who were affected by severe storms in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Carolina, and Texas, in addition to wildfires in California.

In 2015, AT&T’s corporate and foundation disaster relief giving totaled more than $700,000, providing support for the American Red Cross, the United Way and Télécoms Sans Frontières. Funds were dispersed to help victims and communities affected by flooding in South Carolina, tornadoes and floods in Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois, wildfires in Washington, California, Idaho and Montana, as well as hurricane relief in Mexico.

AT&T’s funding of Télécoms Sans Frontières supports international emergency telecommunications services in areas impacted by natural disasters; helping affected populations and relief workers connect to critical resources. AT&T is also a member of the Red Cross Disaster Responder Program, which ensures that the Red Cross is on-site immediately following a disaster and able to use resources efficiently to assist anyone in need.

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Updated on: Jul 31, 2016

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