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How 9/11 prepared Verizon for future disasters

Megan Henney

During September 11, Verizon Wireless -- one of the primary carriers in New York City -- faced enormous operational problems, losing more than 3.6 million data circuits and 300,000 telephone connections during the terrorist attacks.

Thousands of frantic family members and co-workers were unable to contact people they knew in Lower Manhattan, mostly because of a network failure that was later blamed on infrastructure damage. Another issue, however, was a surge of people who were desperately trying to use their cell phones to call loved ones.

In the 17 years since then, the communications company has tried to use the crisis to better prepare for other potential disasters.

”We have learned tremendous amount in the way of engineering,” Denny Strigl, the former CEO of Verizon Wireless, said on Tuesday during an interview with FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “But to be honest, disasters can strike again.”

Strigl said Verizon has learned “quite a bit” about disaster preparation since then -- like how to bring be able to reroute signals, or bring in additional cell towers.

Those are lessons that will likely be put to the test in the coming days, as Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 hurricane, churns toward the East Coast. Experts have warned that disastrous flooding and destructive winds are very likely in the eastern Carolinas. Florence is expected to make landfall on Thursday.

In a news release, Verizon said it’s adding capacity to hundreds of cell sites; fortifying coverage along major roadways; putting cell site equipment on stilts to avoid flood damage; and installing in-building network systems at hospitals, government and emergency facilities.

“I’m not there any longer, but my guess is that Verizon and Verizon Wireless will be prepared to give free phones as we did in Lower Manhattan, some 5,000 free phones as I recall,” Strigl said, although he added, “I think the important thing is, obviously, get the heck out of there.”

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