Hurricane season is underway, and an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected, according to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.
Activity along the Texas coast is typically later in the season – but not always. Emergency preparedness officials have warned Texas not to let preparations fall by the wayside as they focus on staying safe during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas cable operators can help with that preparation; and, should a disaster hit, they stand ready to swiftly respond to get communication channels up and running. In fact, cable operators are taking extra steps to respond to a weather disaster while accommodating the pandemic.
The investment of billions of dollars by cable operators into the most advanced technology generally allows cable operators to keep their customers informed, connected and safe during dangerous storms.
Cable’s videoand high-speed broadband provide access to warnings and other safety information to their customers and others. For example, in advance of Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas in 2017, Comcast opened some 53,000 Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots for both subscribers and nonsubscribers around the Houston area to help people and emergency workers connect.
Cable operators also have prepared by developing business continuity management plans that cover emergency planning, crisis management, disaster recovery and business continuity. Planning faces additional challenges this year, with COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.
For example, cable industry is working with U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure that cable workers are considered essential and will have access to impacted areas should a hurricane strike, Cablefax Daily reports. The industry also is working to secure temporary housing for those workers and overcome other logistical obstacles. As Cablefax’s report notes, “Lodging and food may be difficult for operators’ crews if hotels and restaurants are limited because of closures, reduced staff capacity and community use.
In advance of a storm, one easy way Texans can take to ensure they stay connected during a storm is to download their cable provider’s free mobile apps. Some company apps allow you to get updates on outages, report service interruptions, view live TV and weather radar, access Wi-Fi hotspots, and communicate with family and friends.
Here are some other helpful communication preparation tips, compiled by Comcast:
- Plug TVs, modems, and cable boxes into a surge protector to protect them from damage in case of lightning or a sudden power outage.
- Keep your phone batteries charged.
- Keep your phone dry.
- Make sure all your emergency contact numbers and emails are programmed into your phone.
- Forward your home phone number to your mobile number so that all emergency calls reach you.
When a storm passes and it’s deemed safe, emergency management procedures dictate that electricity must be restored first. Power must be restored before video, phone or internet can begin working again.
Cable operators also must receive clearance from local emergency management officials that it is safe to proceed before cable crews can begin to assess damage, make repairs and restore any service disruptions. Usually this happens quickly; but when Hurricane Harvey unleashed historic rain and flooding in the Houston area in 2017, it was several days before Comcast got the go-ahead to begin damage assessment and service restoration efforts.
For a major storm such as Hurricane Harvey, cable company crews from across the country are ready to come into Texas to assist.
Generally, priority is given to public facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, cable technicians work closely with local emergency responders to keep critical public safety communications networks operating both during and after a storm.
Other resources to help Texans prepare for hurricane season: