For nearly 30 years, a specialized group of Verizon engineers called MERIT – Major Emergency Response Incident Team – deploy when necessary to protect Verizon’s network assets and facilities during natural disasters or hazardous materials incidents.
With hurricane season here and wildfires affecting parts of the country, the Verizon MERIT team recently completed their annual Hazardous Materials Recertification training in Dallas.
Certifications like this support the company’s network-as-a-service foundation and its core areas of growth and innovation across mobility, nationwide broadband, mobile edge compute and business solutions.
“The MERIT team is just one example of how Verizon runs into a crisis,” said Genia Wilbourn, Senior Vice President of Global Network Operations & Assurance for Verizon. “Combine the team’s recertification with our investment in Florida and Texas, two states most frequently impacted by hurricanes, and it perfectly demonstrates Verizon’s 24/7 commitment to help ensure our customers are connected when they need it most.”
Founded in 1993, the Verizon MERIT team is part of the Verizon Response Team and includes more than 40 employees who are specially trained and certified to enter areas affected by a hazardous materials spill for critical network repairs. The Verizon Response Team provides on-demand emergency assistance during crisis situations to government agencies, emergency responders, nonprofits, and communities on a 24/7 basis. Verizon Response Team members set up portable cell sites, WiFi hotspots, free charging stations, and other Verizon Frontline devices and solutions that enable communications and/or boost network performance.
The team members have a wide variety of capabilities, including expertise in wireless and wireline telecommunications network equipment such as fiber-optic cables, switches, routers, hubs, transmission equipment, customer premise equipment, wireless mobile assets, radio networks, and critical infrastructure such as AC/DC power, generators, and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems.
The team has been trained under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines, the same certification guidelines used by major fire department hazardous materials teams. MERIT team members, who are also trained in emergency response management, and actively expanding capabilities, are qualified to operate at the highest operational protection level (Level A), which allows them to enter a contaminated zone, wearing fully encapsulated hazmat suits. The team uses multiple tools to detect more than 30 chemicals, biological and radiological contaminants.
All team members must complete an initial 80-hour training class and approximately 100 hours of annual refresher training. They are also trained in the Unified Incident Command System and receive annual physical exams.
As a self-contained hazmat team, MERIT participants bring all necessary tools and equipment to the emergency scene with them. Team members have custom-designed transport and support vehicles that are fully loaded and ready to deploy immediately. Additionally, the MERIT team has an onsite, climate-controlled mobile command center with workspaces, a conference room, communications equipment, TV monitors, external cameras, an on-board generator, area lighting and a weather station. The team also has hazmat equipment trucks with hazmat gear, communication equipment and an on-board generator, as well as a utility truck with remote camera systems, a breathing air compressor, and additional communications equipment.
The planning Verizon puts into the network all year long is anchored in what is best for customers and communities.