Telecom firms ready hurricane relief

Telecommunications firms have been sending additional emergency equipment to Texas and Louisiana in preparation for Hurricane Rita, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast over the weekend.

The companies have been busy since Hurricane Katrina struck in late August in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, trying to restore service and equip emergency responders. Rita will add to the workload.

“We have enough assets where we are able to maintain our restoration effort with Katrina as well as getting ready for Rita," said Charles Fleckenstein, a Sprint spokesman.

Earlier last week, Sprint sent crews and equipment to the area where Rita was expected to make landfall and planned to move them closer as it became more apparent where the storm would eventually come ashore, he said.

Katrina was more challenging than most storms because some flooded areas of New Orleans that are below sea level stayed flooded for days, and trucks could not reach some of the places they needed to, he said.

"Usually when a hurricane blows through, we follow right behind when it’s safe to do so," he said.

AT&T prepared its Network Disaster Recovery trailers for pre-staging starting Sept. 23 east and west of the hurricane's anticipated path, said Jim McGann, a company spokesman. The trailers were positioned so that they could be moved quickly to repair or replace damaged equipment and restore services as soon as the storm abated, he said.

AT&T workers spent much of last week fortifying network facilities in the expected storm path, he added. Those locations have been supplied with extra batteries, generators, fuel, water, food and other provisions.

"Our portable Emergency Communications Vehicles which provide 48 lines of voice, data and Internet connectivity, are at the ready for quick deployment and use by federal and civil authorities, as needed," he added.

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