C Spire is bolstering its network resources and mobilizing employees to respond to Tropical Storm Gordon, which is expected to make landfall along the Mississippi Gulf Coast tonight as the season’s first Category hurricane.
Gordon, which battered southern Florida on Labor Day with high winds and heavy rain, is expected to make landfall near Biloxi with gale force winds, storm surge of 2 to 4 feet and rain accumulations of 4 to 6 inches. Storm warnings have been issued and a state of emergency has been declared for three Mississippi coastal counties.
C Spire readies its extensive wireless and wireline networks and workforce for a wide range of potential disasters, including major weather events such as hurricanes. The company routinely reviews and updates its emergency preparedness plans and conducts drills throughout the year to test the readiness of its network and employees.
“Our preparations are designed to give customers maximum reliability for all of their communications at the time of greatest need,” said Clayton Branch, director of network operations for C Spire. “People depend on our network as a lifeline to the outside world during emergencies and we take that responsibility seriously.”
September is usually the month when most hurricanes form in the Atlantic. Last year was considered an above average season with 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, six of which were considered major, including the first two major hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years.
While the risks vary each year, it’s still important for residents and businesses in hurricane-prone areas to prepare for the worst. “It only takes one disaster to change your life forever. That’s why we practice the Scout’s motto at C Spire. We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” Branch said.
All employees and contractors, along with an extensive suite of network resources, are on “high alert” as Gordon approaches the Gulf Coast, according to Branch. C Spire also activated its Emergency Response Plan, which guides the use of resources and personnel during a crisis.
C Spire has massed equipment and materials to protect critical network facilities and cell sites. The company plans to use back up batteries and diesel generators at mobile sites and switching centers and has replacement fuel supplies in case normal fuel delivery options are interrupted by commercial power outages or road closures.
The company operates multiple hurricane-ready “super switches” that provide added protection and service assurance for customers. The high-tech telecommunications switching facilities are designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 155 miles an hour, connect millions of calls, wireless data transmissions, video content and other critical services daily for consumer and business customers. In addition to hardened and reinforced shells, the all-steel and concrete buildings house large-scale 500 kilowatt diesel power generators, a grid of back up batteries and other redundant back-up systems, operations and technologies.
C Spire also relies on an extensive network of microwave technology that can circumvent damaged or destroyed landline systems and ensure that communications can be routed to their final destination, Branch said. “Microwave technology can assist with communications during natural disasters when landline systems are down,” he added.
In addition, C Spire offers companies of all sizes a suite of disaster recovery and business continuity services through commercial data centers that operate 24/7/365 with the industry’s highest design, construction and operation certification through the Uptime Institute.
The structures can withstand a 145 mph wind load with its 9-inch think external steel-reinforced precast concrete walls welded to 6-foot-wide spread footings. In addition to multiple redundant power feeds, the buildings also boast giant diesel generators each capable of producing 1.65 megawatts of continuous power, enough to light thousands of homes and businesses.
“This infrastructure, our continuing network investments and our dedicated, customer-inspired workforce will help ensure that essential communications continue for our consumer and business customers even when we experience severe weather events, natural disasters and other life-threatening situations,” Branch said.
The company is coordinating its emergency response efforts with Gov. Bryant and other local and state agencies and volunteer organizations, including the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.