Wireless carriers again brace for massive Northeast storm

As carriers prepare for Nemo, they're offering up tips for customers caught in the massive winter blizzard.

The Apple Store on West 14th Street in Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy hit. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Wireless carriers hope they can weather Nemo better than Sandy.

With a massive blizzard hitting the Northeast region just months after superstorm Sandy devastated the area, the carriers are working to avoid the same kind of mass outages that previously struck their networks and left hundreds of thousands of people without service.

AT&T said it has an "arsenal of disaster response equipment and personnel on standby." The company has topped off its fuel generators at various cell sites, installed and tested high-capacity backup batteries, as well as "Quick Connect Generator Plugs," and staged additional emergency response equipment in various areas.

Verizon, meanwhile, has banks of batteries that provide at least eight hours of backup power to most of its facilities, including batteries that can last 24 hours for major switching centers. Most of its cell sites are equipped with emergency generators as well, and like AT&T, Verizon has been busy topping off fuel reservoirs at those sites.

Verizon also has emergency mobile equipment, including cells on wheels, cells on light trucks, and generators on trucks to increase capacity in an emergency.

Sprint likewise has fueled up hundreds of portable and permanent cell site generators, and has dozens of network and response technicians on standby for deployment, and ensured its network switching facilities in the path of the storm are fueled and operational. Sprint also has several satellite cell on light trucks, known as SatCOLTs, as well as mobile phones and broadband devices to be used for public safety and emergency officials.

T-Mobile said its engineers and rapid response teams are preparing to safeguard its network.

Here are some tips that the carriers are offering in preparation for the storm:

Stay charged: Keep all of your mobile and electronic devices fully charged in case the power goes out. If you have extra batteries, keep those charged too. A laptop can double as another battery in a pinch; just plug your phone into its USB port for a quick charge.

Have the right apps: Don't have a flashlight or good weather app? Now's the time to download one.

Conserve power: In case of an outage, turn off extraneous connections such as Bluetooth, or even Wi-Fi. Use the phone sparingly, as the display takes up a lot of power. Here's a full list of tips for conserving power.

Use text messages: Text messages are less draining on the network and use less power than a long phone call. Text messages also free up the wireless network for emergency use.

Plan ahead: Designate someone in your family to be the central contact, and make sure each family member contacts that person in case of an emergency should they get separated. Also, it's smart to keep your emergency contacts and e-mails on your phone (if you haven't already done so). Those numbers should include the local fire station, police department, and closest hospital. Likewise, you can use the family location features that take advantage of the phone's GPS and is offered by some of the carriers.

Exercise patience: Call volume will likely be high, so be prepared to wait awhile for your phone call to go through, especially if things get bad.

 

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