How to Quickly Restore Power and Telecommunication After a Natural Disaster.

Living in a country with nine climate zones washed by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans leads to regular weather cataclysm. Since 1980, the USA has recorded $2.155 trillion in damages, and hurricanes cause a large part of those. Hurricanes are unpredictable and hit with violent force, causing destruction like flooding, construction collapse, and power and fuel infrastructure crash. Several storms alone in the past five years have generated enormous costs for the country, with Harvey, Irma, Maria, Michael, and Florence bringing damages of $345.5 billion. 

A Look into the Cable Infrastructure After a Storm Hit

The first days after hurricanes are the most significant for all public departments and residents in the affected areas. They have to navigate through debris, restore power, get emergency services on the spot, distribute tasks, clarify jurisdictions, secure workers' safety, etc. One of the list's crucial and vitally important assignments is restoring power and telecom services for medical, communication, and emergency facilities.

But what is the accurate picture of the cable infrastructure in the storm's aftermath? The recent hurricane Ian which could become one of the costliest hurricanes in the USA (estimated between $42 and $258 billion), led to these cable and broadband damages:

  • 11% of cell towers were unserviceable.
  • In 4 counties, more than 60% of towers were broken.
  • 444 cell sites affected by outages.
  • 525,000 Florida residents lost their internet, phone, television, or other combination of cable services.
  • 2 million residents lost power.

The chain of events is predictable: no power results in no connection to emergency services and disruption of 911 call centers, which are extremely critical in the process of storm restoration.

How Cable Technicians Assist in Store Remediation

Restoring telecommunication and power systems is a multitasking job for a cable company. Usually, they follow an operational plan with clear-defined steps, which include the following:

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Mobilizing local and additional crews to damaged areas.

One of the first steps in emergency cases is gathering cable technicians, electricians, engineers, and other cable-related staff at the destruction sites. The local workforce starts managing tasks immediately, and more technicians are called from around the country to assist. Additional personnel is alert and ready to move to damaged areas once necessary. The recovery team advances to the epicenter fast and follows the next step.

Assessing the damage to cable infrastructure.

While the additional crew gets to the storm-affected areas, local operational technicians assess the cable connections' damages and the running risks. First, they establish areas with dangerous electrical hazards, such as damaged electrified wires. They isolate the cables and make the sector safe for the next crew.

Next, they receive the official public information about the most affected districts and compile a plan of action: how to distribute the technicians to the worksites, the task priorities, and the work schedule and accommodations for the next several days.

Organizing the tasks for storm remediation

The prime concern is restoring communication for substation facilities, which are essential for supplying power. Next in line are medical and emergency response agencies, then vital businesses that are important for the area to function properly, such as delivering water supply, fuel, food, and medicine.

Cable technician teams are working simultaneously on restoring the trunk and residential power lines. As restoring the connection for customers is not workers' priority at the beginning, sometimes repairing trunk lines is impossible because they are interconnected with residential cable lines. After distributing the tasks between the crews, they move to assigned areas and collaborate with local agencies.

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Managing the operational process and restoring the cable connection

The main task of every cable technician is to replace and repair damaged cables for better network performance and energy flow to public and residential districts. Cable technicians travel with many pieces of equipment and materials, sometimes even working alongside competitors to restore connectivity. Once the plan is established, cable technicians work in shifts to ensure the workflow is not compromised.

Fixing the damaged cables, such as restoring 20,000 wires in Fort Myers after hurricane Ian, can take up to 2-3 weeks for one crew. Sometimes, cable technicians use temporary fiber to supply power to local areas, especially when generators can't guarantee a steady flow of electricity. The crew works on restoring fiber links and creating backhaul solutions for satellite connection to ensure better cell coverage.

Bringing the team together

At every stage of storm remediation, the most important thing is to keep the team motivated and the morale strong. Working night shifts, seeing destruction all around, and witnessing people losing homes or relatives can be a shaking experience. Every cable technician supports their colleague and is ready to work overtime if needed.

It's crucial to keep in mind that your job helps communities come back to normal. Aligning forces and boosting each other's mental health is a top priority for every team, especially those who have worked on many natural disaster sites over the years.

You May Not See Them, but Cable Technicians Are There for You

In the storm's aftermath, people tend to thank emergency services and those who help local communities avoid flooding and other casualties. In rare cases, people notice that their power is restored and cell connections are established because of workers they don't see. It's time to thank workers who hide behind the curtains - cable technicians.

Despite harsh weather conditions, hazardous areas, and long working hours, cable technicians are always on the spot to fix vitally important services for everyone. We appreciate your work and hope that all future challenges will become growth opportunities.