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Wireless companies provide mobile command and communications abilities immediately after storms

| 09.13.2007 | 11:28:255018 |
September 13 '07: As the ninth tropical depression of the 2007 hurricane season forms off the coast of Texas and Louisiana, local and state governments are gearing up for the heavy rains and high winds. To keep communications operations before, during and after the storm and to help raise awareness about how to maintain contact with family members, AT&T has posted its best practices and preparedness plan for the company and for communities.
Before the merger with AT&T, Cingular Wireless spent "$1.8 billion ... to enhance and improve its network coverage in the Souteast, including adding more than 800 new cell sites." However, should a large storm strike the Gulf Coast, and the Southeast, knocking-out those cell towers, the company also built "two mobile command centers called Mobile Access Command Headquarters (MACH 1 and MACH 2) to its hurricane and disaster relief efforts," the company's website read.

In addition to the MACH 1 and MACH 2 units, the company amassed more than 4,500 mobile generators which can run for more than 36 hours without refueling; bought two emergency communications military-grade SUV's which can access internet, satellite and radio communications; built Cells on Wheels (COWs) which can act as mobile communications hubs; and designed Cells on Light Trucks (COLTs) which are trucks with microwave cell towers.

The company also has the ability to set up remote-location base camps to coordinate response and recovery operations and to help maintain continuity of operations. The base camps can provide shelter, medical attention, meals and water to more than 80 people.

Similar operations have been implemented by Verizon Wireless which has its own fleet of COWs and COLTs. During the 2005 hurricane season, Verizon set up 10 Wireless Emergency Communications Centers to help place calls for customers affected by the storms. Additionally, the company has a mobile 35-foot trailer which can act as a central command and communication hub in the field immediately after a disaster.