There’s no question this year is one for the record books.  

It’s only June, but 2020 has already highlighted something important (both to AT&T and our customers): When disaster strikes, it’s often the work we’ve invested over the past several years that is the difference between success and failure – between connection and isolation. Preparation matters.

And I’m proud to say that at AT&T, we’re prepared.

We’re prepared to handle an unprecedented pandemic that demonstrated a shift in demand to our network. We’re prepared to innovate faster to meet rapid changes in customer preference. We’re prepared to provide first responders a connection they can always rely on – through FirstNet. We’re prepared to rush in to restore connectivity when storms inevitably strike.

And when all of this happens at once – we’re still prepared.

That’s not just a testament to the incredible talent we have across our company or the countless hours they’re willing to put in to support our network (although my pride in our people could be a series of blog posts in itself). When you get down to it, it’s the investment we made in our network over many years that has prepared us for today.

2020 has proved more than ever why AT&T is mission critical.

The value of experience

We were just adjusting to the initial impacts of the pandemic when the spring storm season kicked into high gear. As the days and weeks went by, the impact of both kept growing.

It was during this time our teams showed the value of their experience and demonstrated their flexibility. They bounced back-and-forth seamlessly between COVID-19 project escalations and storm-related service restorations following tornadoes in the Southeast and flooding in several states.

We also had teams dealing with both emergencies at the same time. A field team in Arkansas hustled to reconnect a cell on wheels (COW) at a local hospital after a violent storm tore through, knocking it offline just hours after it was initially set up.

The spring storms gave our meteorologists and service continuity teams a chance to test new technology and tools designed to alert local teams to potential problems before they happen. One of these tools alerted us that a central office in Georgia was in danger of flooding during a storm. This warning allowed our local team to take preventative measures, so our office stayed operational and our network and customers stayed connected.

Our mission hasn’t changed

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed our mission, but it did require us to reimagine how we will respond to one emergency while dealing with the other. Again, we’re ready for that.

Safety. We designed new protocols for disaster response to keep employees and customers safe. The guidelines include responding to disasters by sending only one person per vehicle (we used to travel two per truck), cleaning each vehicle before deployment and wiping it down prior to each use, and requiring National Disaster Response (NDR) teams to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while staying at least 20 feet away from the general public on scene.

Technology. Our meteorologists may be working from home during the pandemic, but they’re still tracking storms as they develop. As I highlighted above, the new technology they’re using is providing crucial guidance that our teams need for a faster and more coordinated response.

Speed. And despite the demands of the pandemic, the equipment those teams rely on following disasters is standing by. It’s staged strategically across the country so it can be deployed at a moment’s notice and arrive more quickly than before.

Staying ahead of the storm

At AT&T, our goal is to stay ahead of the storm by combining data from past events with the latest analytical tools and intelligence. When we pull all these resources together, we have a well-planned, well-coordinated response that can quickly restore network outages, keep our employees safe and help the communities we serve.

We have seen so much this year that was unexpected. But by now, our teams know to expect the unexpected, plan for anything and work quickly to make the seemingly impossible, possible.

At the end of the day, I’m proud to say that through pandemic, storms and whatever else we’ll encounter in 2020 and beyond – we stand at the ready… AT&T is prepared.