PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Verizon is preparing to connect communities across Florida as Hurricane Ian nears.

Spokesperson for Verizon, Andrew Testa, said they have teams of engineers running emergency drills and preparing for the incoming storm.

“Our team of engineers are actively preparing, running emergency drills, testing fiber, looking at cell sites and making sure our recovery equipment is in place,” Testa said. “All the way from the tip of Florida in the Gulf Coast to the East coast of Florida.”

Testa said their network is already prepared to withstand extreme pressure.

“We have redundancy on critical paths, for example, we have batteries and backup generators in critical locations, what we call macrosites,” Testa said. “Then we have switch locations and operations to better minimize that risk in case commercial power is lost. 100 percent of our macrocell sites have a backup battery power and nearly 80 percent have backup generators. We have been topping them off, testing battery backups and positioning any extra equipment incase any additional capacity is needed. Incase we need to assist with emergency crews to respond to any potential network issue.”

Verizon has a fleet of more than 500 portable assets, according to Testa.

“That speaks for generated power cell sites that we can replace or enhance coverage that is effected in the area,” Testa said. “As well as drones and aircrafts that can help provide service from above.”

Pensacola has a top-secret facility called ‘The Switch’ that houses new portable equipment that will keep people connected. The Switch is able to route all the calls, texts and data for much of the area. The Switch routes around 143 million calls each month and has enough supplies to keep employees working during disasters to keep people connected. There are more than eight hours of battery backup, and they can run generators for up to seven days without recharging.

“A network switch is really the brains of our network,” Testa said. “All calls, texts and data get processed through that center from the region.”

Verizon sent out a hurricane preparedness list of things you can do to make sure you are prepared:

  • Keep devices dry: While many phones today are some degree of water resistant, you still want to take some extra care to ensure phones, tablets, batteries, chargers and other equipment remain dry and accessible. Plastic zipper storage bags help shield devices, and there are weatherproof phones, phone cases and other protective accessories available.
  • Keep devices fully charged: Make sure your device is ready when you need it by keeping phone and tablet batteries fully charged in case commercial power goes out.
  • Get some backup: When power is out for an extended period of time, portable battery packs can be a game-changer to ensure you remain connected. Don’t forget your car chargers as well in case you need to evacuate.
  • Create a list: Keep a list of emergency numbers in your phone so that you have them if needed.
  • Be prepared for loss: Take pictures of valuables and other important belongings for possible insurance claims. And make sure they’re uploaded to the cloud so you have a backup.
  • Review checklists: Review the hurricane preparedness checklist, power outage checklist and other resources from the American Red Cross.
  • Download useful apps: There are plenty of free weather, news, and safety-related apps available for download to your smartphone.

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