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Verizon aids relief efforts for Southern California wildfires

Published on 3 September 2009

A firefighter working alone in a wildfire. Verizon has increased its wildfire relief efforts to help provide free services for both firefighters and victims of wildfire
Verizon has increased its wildfire relief efforts for both firefighters and victims of wildfire
Firefighters, evacuees depend on network performance, free communications services to remain connected

Verizon has expanded wildfire relief efforts to include free service restoral for customers who have lost their home in the fires, which have burned more than 150,000 acres across Southern California.

As part of ongoing assistance for fire victims, Verizon is waiving charges for home-phone customers who move service to a new house or who re-establish service at their original location after they have rebuilt. These customers can also opt for free call forwarding or free voice mail service for up to 12 months, as can customers who have been forced to temporarily evacuate because of the wildfires. Verizon is making similar free services available to businesses that have to relocate because of the fires. Residential customers who need these services should call Verizon at 1-800-483-1000; business customers should call 1-800-483-2000.

Meanwhile, Verizon continues to provide emergency responders with access to its wired and wireless networks, helping firefighters to coordinate their attacks on the wildfires and allowing evacuees to remain in touch with loved ones during the crisis.

To date, Verizon's network support for firefighters and evacuees has included the provision of 171 wireless handsets, 98 Mobile Broadband cards, seven wireless-enabled laptops, two wireless network enhancers, 62 wired phone lines and six high-speed Internet connections.

In addition, the Verizon Foundation has contributed $10,000 to the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the American Red Cross to further its relief efforts for the wildfire evacuees.

Keeping customers connected

After fire officials have determined it is safe to do so, Verizon technicians have entered the burned areas and are assessing and repairing network damage, which so far has been relatively limited. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless technicians have ensured sufficient capacity in area cell sites to keep customers connected as mandatory evacuations of residential and commercial neighborhoods generate spikes in call volume. Backup batteries and generators have powered several wired sites during intermittent commercial power interruptions caused by the fires.

Support for emergency responders

Currently, Verizon is providing the following support:

Station Fire

  • Fifteen wireless handsets and three Mobile Broadband cards for the American Red Cross Greater Los Angeles Chapter
  • Ten wireless handsets for the American Red Cross San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter
  • Six wireless handsets and two Mobile Broadband cards for the American Red Cross Claremont Chapter
  • Thirty wireless handsets, 10 Mobile Broadband cards, 35 wired phones and two High Speed Internet connections for the Hansen Dam Support Center
  • Thirteen Mobile Broadband cards and 15 wireless handsets for the California Incident Management Team
  • Four Mobile Broadband cards for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
  • Laptop computers, wireless handsets and Mobile Broadband cards for evacuee centers in La Canada, Palmdale, Tujunga and Santa Clarita

Oak Glen, Pendleton Fires

  • Twenty-seven wired phone connections and four High Speed Internet connections for the combined incident command post for the two fires
  • Ten wireless handsets and four Mobile Broadband cards for the California Incident Management Team

"Verizon's wired network exceeds 99.9 percent reliability, and we want our customers to know they can count on us to keep them connected anytime, especially during a crisis," said Margaret Serjak, vice president of Verizon's California operations.

Luis Cruz, Verizon Wireless regional president, said, "The devastation caused by these wildfires is heartbreaking. It's affecting our customers, communities and employees. We are committed to making a difference for those who've been affected by these fires."

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