Although disasters of all types can strike year-round, the advent of hurricane season heightens awareness for everyone. Especially as forecasters post annual predictions with some expecting storms in the double digits and for numerous major hurricanes to hit landfall this year.

Why it matters:

From sudden-strike tornadoes and fast-burning fires to devasting hurricanes, no matter the disaster, connectivity is crucial –for those affected as well as the first responders answering the call for help. That’s why delivering reliable connections is central to our mission every day of the year. It’s also why we never rest in deploying new technologies and making dedicated resources available to help restore communities whenever and wherever disaster strikes. 

What’s new:

Enhanced NDR support:

Our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program is one of the industry’s largest and most advanced. The NDR fleet – based in strategic and secure warehouse locations across the U.S. – includes hundreds of pieces of disaster recovery equipment that can be quickly deployed to support customers and first responders when and where they need it most. Our latest upgrades include:

  • New flex tech trailers – we’ve added newly designed trailers supporting emerging IP and SDN technologies. They contain essentials, such as power, fiber, and cabling, and can be quickly custom-equipped for the specific on-ground needs of each deployment. 
  • Enhanced core trailers – to keep pace with traffic demands on our core backbone, we’ve invested in capacity and speed upgrades to our network core IP trailers. Each trailer can support large volumes of data traversing at high speeds and can scale up to a capacity of over 38 terabits per second. Available capacity is crucial during times of disaster.
  • More Flying COWs – We’ve expanded our Flying COW (Cell on Wings) drone fleet that supports cellular coverage for disaster recovery and FirstNet emergency response.
    • Built with specialized LTE radios and power systems, our latest models have larger propellers and increased payload capacity compared to previous designs.
    • We now have the capability to support response and recovery efforts with our Flying COWs at up to 5 different locations simultaneously. Plus, we have hundreds of drones available to support damage assessment and inspection of facilities as needed.   

FirstNet growth:

In the wake of unpredictable, potentially catastrophic events, it is our communities’ first responders – police, EMS, firefighters, 911 and more – that need communications the most. And that’s why they are subscribing to FirstNet, the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. FirstNet is also changing the way we operate and respond to natural disasters; helping to get communities connected and on the road to recovery faster than ever before.

  • The FirstNet Response Operations Program – which supported first responders during hundreds of events last year including Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael– is giving first responders greater command and control of their communications when storms strike.
    • The program is led by former first responders, and it’s designed to help ensure that support and recovery equipment go where Public Safety needs it most, based on life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation.

Data-driven resiliency:

Collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, we launched a Climate Change Resiliency Project to better anticipate, prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

  • Climate Change Analysis Tool – the project led to the development of this new tool that will help anticipate potential impacts of climate change on our network infrastructure and business operations 30 years into the future. This information can be used to help us plan for maintenance, disaster recovery and future construction to best meet the needs of our customers, first responders and the communities we serve.

The bigger picture:

Our first priority is keeping our customers and first responders connected. In addition to the more than 300 assets in our arsenal dedicated to network disaster recovery, Public Safety agencies using FirstNet have 24/7 access to 75 deployable network assets at no additional charge – including 70+ land-based assets and 3 FirstNet Flying COWs – to help as they respond to storms this season.

Our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR), Disaster First Strike Team (DFST) and FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG) conduct several readiness drills throughout the year to help ensure our networks and personnel are prepared to respond ahead of disasters.

  • DFST is formed by hundreds of selfless volunteers across the company trained to assist disaster-stricken areas in all aspects of restoration response, ranging from handling large-scale emergency generator deployments to rebuilding damaged network infrastructure.   
  • The team has been deployed over 200 times since 2011 with 25 deployments in 2018 including support for Hurricane Florence and Michael, California wildfires and winter storms in the Northeast.

We’ll continue to stand by those who put their lives on the line, day in and day out, to protect and support our communities.


Disaster Response Page

Keeping Communities Safe This Hurricane Season