First, for all of our loyal readers who have asked about our health and safety, I am happy to report that while many of us do not have power at our homes the office has power and we are fully operational and delighted to be at your service. In fact, we have a nice extended family since area schools are closed and the sounds of children laughing have filled our halls. Given the devastation this is a much needed respite from the task of keeping up with older family members many of who are in need of shelter, warmth and a hot shower.
I will try not to be too personal in this space, but the reality is that my mobile service provider Verizon Wireless deserves a shout out. In a statement yesterday, they provided the following update on the preparedness and availability of their network.
“Our wireless network has performed well in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Due in large part to the billions of dollars of investment made to our Northeast Wireless Network, including the installation of permanent backup generators at most cell sites, more than 94 percent of our towers from Maine to Virginia are currently operational and supporting customers.
Our network teams continue round-the-clock restoration efforts for the sites that remain offline due to lack of connectivity or power – those predominantly in New York City and northern New Jersey. As power and connectivity conditions have improved over the last 24-hours, we have seen some improvement to wireless service in Lower Manhattan and elsewhere in the Metropolitan area.
We will continue to refuel permanent generators at cell sites until commercial power is restored, deploy additional portable generators as needed where possible and support customers by offering our open retail stores as a resource to recharge their devices. We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to restore 100 percent of our Network.”
I can attest to the fact that despite some hiccups at the height of the storm, everyone here has been able to reach their loved ones wirelessly. This is a testament not just to Verizon Wireless, but to all of the mobile operators in the area. I also must say it has been a testament to the ingenuity and generosity of the people who live around the impacted area. As I noted previously, having battery life has been as essential as having gasoline (now in scarce supply in the region making commutes problematic at best). The number of individuals and businesses that have used their generators to let folks charge up has been one of the better kept secrets of the ground game going on.
The truth is that interestingly, and without faulting the electric utilities, the fact that Verizon Wireless had its mobile sites equipped with energy back-up has made a horrific situation somewhat bearable. It is difficult to put a price tag on peace of mind. And, to be honest, while getting a text from a loved one is nice, there is no substitute for hearing their voice, even when they are being stubborn saying, “It is ok, I’ll sit in the dark.”
I have embedded a video from Verizon Wireless just to show that the equipment involved in getting a network ready is not a trivial task. I also happen to know first-hand that their crews are working closely with public safety officials and the electric utilities to help get vital infrastructure up and running ASAP.
When the storm left I wrote a piece about some feelings I had the morning after the storm. I did express fascination with the constant reference being made by the television broadcasters that, “If you do not have power you can follow us on the Internet at (fill in the blank). It was a bit too snide and after playing news source to those without power but with the ability to recharge their smartphones (from those generators I spoke of above, as well as from their automobiles or those of friends), I would like to amend my observation.
While I still find the notion of not having power but being told to follow a TV or radio broadcast on the web somewhat baffling, the truth is that having access to the live news content via the web, particularly the live streams of local news stations, has been comforting to my family members without power. Unfortunately, at the moment, having access to electric utility updates as to progress on power restoration activities can quickly be dispiriting. The destruction of so much electric infrastructure is such that power restoration to individuals, even if trees and downed wires have been cleared, is going to take weeks and not hours or days.
There is going to be a lot more said about the role of communications and Sandy. In fact, I would recommend two items on the Verizon Wireless news center home page for a quick read in this regard:
Turning to Social Media for Help During and After Hurricane Sandy
Text-to-Donate Campaigns Underway to Assist Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts
I am also hoping as a result of what is about to transpire next week regarding the presidential elections in the U.S., that some thought be given to creating a voting app for smartphones. The technology exists, and those who govern us, regardless of their politics, should be searching for ways to ensure that everyone who wants to vote can do so, and that their identity can be authenticated to preserve the legitimacy of the action.
In closing, and speaking from my multiple personae as father, son, husband, son-in-law, as well as a life-time resident of the New York area, I have four words to print, “Thank You Verizon Wireless!”
Edited by Brooke Neuman