Hurricane Season 2015- What it takes to Keep Wireless Communications Operational after a Hurricane

June 1st marked the first day of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season.  While this is an El Nino year and the hurricane forecast is light, it is a fact that some of the most severe hurricanes of history happened during El Nino years.

  • Hurricane Betsy (1965) – $9.7 billion in damages
  • Hurricane Agnes (1972) – $10.8 billion
  • Hurricane Andrew (1992) – $40.7 billon

Hurricanes can devastate communities, power grids and other infrastructures.  In the United States alone there are hundreds of thousands of cell towers equipped with equipment that transmits and receive signals from mobile phones.  This equipment requires power to keep it up and running.  In the event of a commercial power outage, back-up power systems, which are usually a combination of batteries and generators, must be in good working order to ensure continuity of network operations.  Most cell towers are now equipped with 2 – 8 hours of battery backup and some carriers install fixed emergency standby generators.  For the carriers that do not deploy fixed emergency standby generators, they rely on a mobile generator plan to restore power after the storm rolls through. It is critical that the wireless infrastructure works following a disaster, not only for the public, but for the first responders and public safety agencies responding to the crisis.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and left mass destruction in its wake. The Category 3 Hurricane knocked out 70% of the cell towers in New Orleans. There are many reasons why a cell tower can be rendered inoperable, but the most common reason is simply loss of power. Wireless carriers definitely learned their lesson from Hurricane Katrina.  In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left millions of New Englanders without power for days, some even weeks. Hurricane Sandy was so devastating because of the density of cell sites in the Northeast.  During times like this, wireless carriers must ensure that their towers and facilities stay up and running or are restored quickly following a disaster. That is where Cat5 Resources comes in.

What does it take to ensure that wireless networks don’t go down when the power goes out?

Prior to a storm, Cat5 Resources deploys fleets of portable generators and other backup power equipment in from other areas and strategically places it outside of the disaster area, ready and waiting to be deployed. This equipment is typically maintained year-round by Cat5 to ensure optimum performance when they are in use.

If the site is equipped with a fixed standby emergency generator, once commercial power is lost the site will automatically switch to backup power. The carriers monitor their networks and Cat5 will deploy strike teams to recon sites for damage, deploy mobile generators, refuel sites with generators and repair generators that did not automatically switch over. Cat5 makes sure strike teams are prepared for anything, because they often run into roadblocks, debris, flooding and other disaster related issues. While it is of utmost importance that the towers be brought back online, Cat5 will operate with safety in mind acting as an essential responder to restore the mission critical communications infrastructure.

Sites that are not equipped with stationary generators must have portables deployed to them. Once again, this is not always an easy task. Deployment teams are prepared to overcome debris, flooding, and other obstacles. Not only that, but towers are sometimes located in remote areas – places where people rarely go – and some can only be accessed by our well-equipped pickup trucks. In extreme cases, hard to reach sites may need to be accessed by ATVs, helicopters, boats or only by foot. Once generators are set up and running – they must be re-fueled to ensure network stability. Cat5 monitors fuel consumption and fuel storage tank size to create efficient refuel schedules. Our fueling teams are deployed to keep the generators fueled until commercial power is restored. Portable generators need to be refueled every 12-24 hours and stationary generators need to be refueled every 48 – 72 hours.

Obtaining fuel during natural disasters is not always an easy task. Anyone who has been affected by a Hurricane knows that fuel resources can become scarce at times not only for the public, but for commercial and industrial customers as well. Cat5 stays prepared by keeping resources from all over the country on standby to be used in case local fuel racks become inaccessible or dry. During Hurricane Sandy, crews made up of over 300 drivers were deployed to service clients throughout the area. Not a single client went without fuel, even when the local pipelines had been shut down. We also have the capability to support bulk fuel deployments for customers who need fuel when gas stations are shut down. Through a network of fuel terminals and industry knowledge, Cat5 stands ready to support customers for all refueling and bulk fuel needs.

Cat5 drivers are specifically trained to ensure generators are refueled on schedule by any means necessary. Most drivers come from military, first responder, and law enforcement backgrounds. If a site is inaccessible due to debris or is in a hard to reach place – drivers often use their skills and resources to figure out how to safely reach the site.

Our command center and field crews will around the clock to ensure our customers’ operations are maintained even when the power is out. With decades of experience comes a level of trust from our customers who know that Cat5 will do whatever it takes to restore networks and ensure continuity of operations. We are the tip of the spear as an essential responder and the first ones in and the last ones out during any major disaster.

Want to learn more about how Cat5 Resources can help keep your business up and running during an emergency? Contact us today!