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Cable operators brace for Hurricane Irene

Fri, 08/26/2011 - 8:25am
Mike Robuck

Cable operators along the East Coast have been preparing for the impact of Hurricane Irene in order to keep their services up and running to their residential and business customers.

Cox Communications' system in Virginia issued a press release on its Business Continuity Plan, which is intended to prepare the company for emergency situations such as hurricanes. Under the guidance of this plan, Cox has already initiated pre-storm preparation activities.  

"Our priority, after ensuring the safety of our employees, is to continue to serve our residential and business customers during and after this storm event," Cox's statement said. "In preparation for any local impact from Hurricane Irene or subsequent storms, we are closely monitoring the weather situation so that we may respond appropriately when/if the time comes.

"At this time, all Cox operations are operating under normal business hours. We are fully staffed with Cox field technicians and maintenance crews. However, we will adjust our operational plans based to the strength and severity of the storm. We have additional operational crews on standby, ready to execute our recovery plan following the storm. Our recovery efforts are closely coordinated with Dominion Power, as well as emergency management agencies; this is to ensure the safest and most effective operations transition following the storm event."

Cable operators have worked on implementing business continuity plans in order to be prepared for natural or manmade disasters by partnering with data centers and implementing redundant network routes.

As the nation's largest cable operator and ISP, Comcast has put its hurricane plans in place.

"Since early this week, Comcast has been making preparations from Florida to New England so we are ready to respond quickly and assist customers in the wake of Hurricane Irene," Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said. "We have activated our Disaster Recovery Command Center to review equipment inventory and staffing to ensure we have the materials and manpower needed to respond to any disruptions in service resulting from the impact of flooding, power outages, and downed trees and wires to our systems.  

"We are continuing to closely monitor the storm's path and are working with state and local governments and power companies. Our crews are standing by and are ready to begin repairs in any impacted areas once we are given clearance."

With winds in excess of 100 Mph today, forecasters predicted that Irene would make landfall on Saturday in North Carolina. The storm could have an adverse impact on Time Warner Cable's East Region, which provides triple-plays services to more than 5.9 million residential and business customers. Time Warner Cable's East Region serves more than 1,300 cities in nine states, including Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Time Warner Cable said it has Business Recovery Unit trailers in place in key locations along the East Coast so that restoration efforts can begin as soon as it is safe to enter potentially impacted areas. The trailers hold everything from fiber, generators and chainsaws to emergency supplies for crews, such as tents, flashlights and water.

"By positioning equipment in strategic areas before the storm, Time Warner Cable is able to quickly respond to those communities that sustain the most damage," said Mike Munley, president of residential services for Time Warner Cable East. "We know our residential and business customers rely on our digital phone, Internet and cable services to stay connected to information and each other, particularly during severe weather, and we are committed to getting customers back on line as soon as it is safe to do so."

With more than 17,000 employees throughout the East, Time Warner Cable has taken following proactive measures to ensure that it's ready to help customers in the event of severe weather:

  • Technicians have extra equipment and fuel on hand.
  • Generators have been tested and backup power equipment is prepared for deployment.
  • Additional technicians, maintenance, construction and customer service representatives are scheduled around the clock.
  • Call center employees up and down the East Coast are ready to answer customer calls, online chat and Tweets from impacted areas.

Also, work-from-home representatives will take customer calls from their living rooms, while technicians across the East can be mobilized to provide support to the impacted areas that need the most help. In addition, Time Warner Cable can call in employees from other states to help if needed.

Time Warner Cable's 24/7 automated phone system tells customers if it knows about an outage in their area. It also has dedicated customer service support phone lines for both its residential and business customers, as well as updates on Twitter, @TWCCarolinas.

Hurricane Irene has already passed Florida, but Bright House Networks, which serves Tampa Bay, Orlando and other areas of the state, had the bases covered. Unlike most cable operators, Bright House Networks has two TV stations, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13, in the state that are known for their weather coverage.

In addition to the detailed TV news coverage, Bright House prepped for the hurricane season by offering tips on its blog, and it also created a dedicated Storm Center page on its website. According to a Bright House Networks spokeswoman, the company also prepared direct email messages in advance, as well as information that could be posted to its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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