Hurricane Survival

Keeping us connected

Even during a storm, our internet expectations have grown
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Not so long ago, hunkering down for a hurricane meant our contact with the rest of the world was put on hold.

We might e-mail long-distant friends and business associates to announce we’re about to lose power – then we would enter the old-fashioned, non-electronic world for as long as it took Belco and the communications companies to get the show back on the road.

In this modern era of instant connectivity, however, our needs are very different.

From WhatsApp chat groups with friends across the globe to business negotiations with overseas clients, the ability to connect is more vital than ever before.

Some disruption is inevitable during a major storm but, for telecoms providers like One Communications, the pressure is on to maintain service as much as possible whatever the weather.

“It is fair to say that people have higher expectations today when it comes to staying connected during a storm,” a One Communications spokeswoman said.

“There is increased reliance on digital communication in general for both personal and professional interactions with the proliferation of smartphones, social media and cloud-based services.”

The Covid-19 pandemic prompted a rise of remote working and flexibility, meaning many businesses now operate on a “work-from-anywhere” approach, which means employees require reliable internet and communication services.

“Social connectivity with social media and messaging apps have become integral to receiving timely information and maintaining personal relationships,” the spokeswoman said.

“During a storm, maintaining reliable communication services is important for our customers to stay connected to family, emergency services and even business connections.

“Our commitment to keeping customers connected during a storm reflects our dedication to their safety, security and wellbeing.

“We strive to provide reliable communication services that are essential for navigating challenging times, ensuring access to information, assistance and community support.”

Storm preparations begin as early as May, when outside plant teams review foliage along the main trunk lines and inspect critical core infrastructure.

“Power outages are the leading cause of connectivity loss,” the One Communications spokeswoman explained.

“Additionally, high winds from severe weather condition and foliage can cause droplines to be pulled down. Foliage that has not been adequately trimmed poses a significant risk.”

As a hurricane approaches, the team moves into storm mode.

The spokeswoman said: “Once we are on alert, we activate our Business Continuity plan where our teams are well trained on their roles and responsibilities.

“Essential items are all stored in locations across the island for quick access. Once it is safe, our service delivery, construction and maintenance teams are prepared to respond.”

During the storm, the firm’s Network Operations Centre monitors outages and works closely with Belco to address power-related issues.

As soon as the Emergency Measures Organisation signals it is safe for utility companies to proceed, they prioritise restoration tasks to ensure the quickest possible recovery of services.

One Communications staff follow strict safety rules as they go about getting people connected again.

“The safety of our staff is our top priority. We do not perform any restoration work during the storm to avoid putting our teams at risk,” the spokeswoman said.

“We collaborate closely with the EMO to confirm the conditions are safe before beginning any repair activities. Our field teams are among the first responders, following the all-clear from the EMO, to assess the network infrastructure.

“It is essential that roads are clear of public traffic to allow utility companies to operate safely and efficiently during these restoration efforts.”

In recent years, One Communications has improved the resiliency of its network by making major investments in its fibre infrastructure.

“Our commitment to data-driven decision-making underpins our approach to network resilience,” the spokeswoman said.

“Historical data allows us to pinpoint the areas that are most vulnerable and allows us to take proactive measures.

“Collaboration is also key to our strategy. We work closely with Belco and our Outside Plant team to improve areas that may be heavily impacted by the storm.

“By continuously reinforcing our infrastructure, we reduce the likelihood of service disruptions during storms.”

A series of inspections are carried out to maintain the integrity of the network.

“These inspections involve examinations of our infrastructure in areas that are most exposed to storm impacts,” the spokeswoman said. “This allows us to identify potential vulnerabilities early on.”

She warned that, no matter how badly you need to get connected after a storm, you should never take matters into your hands.

“We urge customers to stay safe in their homes and allow utility companies to evaluate and assess the situation,” she said.

“It is crucial not to cut or tamper with cables, as they might be supplying services to a larger area. We ask for patience as our teams work as quickly as possible to restore services.

“Despite some team members being personally affected by the storm, they remain committed to being in the field and working to reconnect our customers.”

You can decrease your chances of being impacted by ensuring you don’t have loose branches that might break in a storm and damage cables.

“Please be vigilant about foliage growing near power and cable lines,” the spokeswoman said.

“Report any issues to the utility companies promptly. Your cooperation helps us maintain a safe and reliable network.”

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