Phil Santoro is the media relations manager for Verizon in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Like many utilities, Verizon has been busy the past week with trying to restore service to those affected when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Northeast.
Santoro talked to Providence Business News about work to prepare for the damage wrought from the storm, the work of the Verizon technicians and the lessons to be learned from Sandy.
For more information on the restoration efforts:
PBN: How many Verizon customers experienced problems during Hurricane Sandy?
SANTORO: We’re still assessing that. Any number is not reliable at this point, since in many cases we are sure that some customers have not called us as yet, possibly because they have other means of communicating, they have no power, or are wrestling with more pressing issues.
PBN: With so many Rhode Islanders out of power at one point after the storm (more than 122,000), how did Verizon distribute technicians to most quickly help customers?
SANTORO: In preparing for the storm, we redeployed our workforce to focus on emergency work, implementing overtime shifts, and bringing in employees from other areas where necessary. Our employees are well-trained and well-experienced in these critical situations and have proven over the years that they are at their best when our customers depend on us the most.
PBN: How did Verizon prepare for the storm in Rhode Island and around the Northeast?
SANTORO: Verizon has a long, proud history of excellence in preparing for and responding to emergencies and restoring service that result from catastrophes. We prepare for situations like this year-round, and pride ourselves in our ability to be there for our customers when they count on us most.
There were a myriad of activities we undertook to prepare for the storm. They include activating our national and regional command and control centers, redeploying our workforce, coordinating emergency efforts with power companies and other service providers, and staging replacement equipment, including poles, cables, portable cell sites, and emergency generators.
We began communicating with our customers on Friday (Oct. 26), posting consumer tips on various company websites, communicating with state and local officials, sharing restoration information with electric utilities, issuing a news release to media outlets in the threatened region and nationally, engaging customers through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and sending emails to consumers, with key links for troubleshooting and reporting service problems.
Planning for crises takes place year- round. Verizon has invested $30.5 billion over the past two years to build, maintain and fortify its wireless and wireline infrastructure for such events.
PBN: When do you expect everything in the Ocean State to return to normal, service wise?
SANTORO: Just about all of our customers are back in service. There may be some isolated outages but nearly everyone is back in service. We're helped by having a strong fiber optic network in Rhode Island that provides highly reliable service, and is often quicker to repair.
PBN: Has Verizon learned anything from this storm that will change the way it handles either preparation or restoration efforts when the next big storm hits the area?
SANTORO: As with any such event, we will conduct a post-event analysis.