Storm Ready 2017: Keeping communications lines open after a storm

Uniti Uniti Fiber

MOBILE, AL (WALA) - Fortunately, it's been 12 years since a major storm made landfall in our area. Since then, usage of cell phones and the internet have skyrocketed. We depend heavily on devices, so how will that important service be protected during and after storms? We found out what the first steps are to getting service restored.

Keeping lines of communication open. It's important every day, but especially important during and after a storm.

"The big focus down in our area is survivability," said Uniti Fiber Senior Vice President Eric Daniels.

Those with Uniti Fiber, formally Southern Light, know how to keep those lines of communication alive. They are not the ones who keep your laptop going, they are the ones who help keep police stations, fire stations, the Department of Defense, even television stations up and running. They, along with other network providers, have learned through experience. Daniels says hurricane Ivan in 2004 threw the industry a huge curve.

"What we saw that time was the earth moves a lot, you get 10-15 years of erosion within a 4-6 hour time frame. So the networks we had built underground that we were so confident would be there vanished ... We lost 3 miles of network on Gulf State park," said Daniels.

He said what they learned from Ivan was that the aerial networks, meaning power poles or telephone poles, held up much better. Changes were made and now both aerial and underground networks are used. 

"Our #1 restoration tool in the event of a hurricane is a chainsaw. If we can chainsaw the trees off of the network most of the time they bounce back up and we're back up," Daniels said.

If you are wondering, how does this affect me? Daniels said, it does. He said once you get the most critical functions working, it's easier to get the non-critical functions ... meaning that laptop ... up and running again as well.

All of this works only if there is power. Companies like Uniti are required to be able to run without power for a certain length of time. The same thing is true for cell towers, generators will keep them running for a period of time until repairs are made.