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Lexent's emergency response sees new scale

Mon, 09/17/2001 - 8:00pm
Anne Kerven

Even as the industry continues to donate funds and services to relief agencies after last week's terrorist attacks, rebuilding efforts also are underway.

Lexent Inc. helped rebuild the communications infrastructure after the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and now is working with telecom companies in lower Manhattan, re-establishing "network integrity," it says.

The company specializes in emergency restoration, but "usually not at this scale," says spokeswoman Susan DeWitt. Typical problems entail cut fibers that take a few hours to repair. "This is a full-scale project for us," she says of the World Trade Center-area work, adding that employees are working 24 hours a day at ground zero. "We're very busy with emergency restoration for carriers."

The company's headquarters at 3 New York Plaza is about 10 blocks south of the World Trade Center, but sustained no damage. Still, "The first thing we did was make sure everyone was OK," she says. Techs regularly work in the towers, but none were inside when the attacks occurred. Employees then met at a company-owned garage south of Canal Street, and started to "reach out to customers to find out what was needed."

Most, she says, needed power. The company delivered generators and more importantly, fuel to run them. As the days went on, she adds, the company started creating workarounds for carriers who had worked from the WTC.

As for itself, the company temporarily relocated in New Jersey facilities and only today moved back to the New York office, she says. Now, crews are working 24 hours a day, laying, splicing and testing fiber and doing what used to take months, in days.

Services include providing backup power, installing generators and delivering fuel to its telecom customers. The company is also helping to rebuild networks through deploying, splicing and testing fiber optic cable, and reconfiguring network equipment to reroute network traffic.

As to the amount of work it did in the WTC, "those networks have not gone away," DeWitt says. The company expects to repair and rebuild in the coming months.

While the towers' destruction has limited office space in the area, replacement equipment is smaller, she says, and carriers should be able to "find a place for it and get it up and running."

Finally, DeWitt says she's seen a lot of cooperation in the industry. Where suppliers once might have offered a giant spool of fiber for a price, "Now they say, 'Just take it.'"

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