All eyes in Texas are looking toward the Gulf of Mexico, now that hurricane season is underway. But hurricane season isn’t the only reason to get yourself prepared for a potential disaster. Texas has the most severe weather in the country, with exposure to nine different types of natural disasters – the most of any state.
The time is now to plan and get ready. And cable can help when it comes to preparing for or recovering from a natural disaster.
Just as Texans are advised, cable operators don’t wait until potentially catastrophic weather is approaching before they start getting ready. All have comprehensive disaster plans firmly in place, and those plans are reviewed and updated regularly. Their goal: to prepare cable infrastructure to weather storms as much as possible, and then swiftly respond when the danger has passed in order to get networks up and running as soon as possible.
“As we prepare for hurricane season, we are always thinking of ways to keep our customers connected when severe weather and outages happen,” said Vice President of Engineering for Comcast’s Houston Region, Rasheedah Carr. “With the uncertainty of a storm’s path and how quickly they can happen, it is best to prepare now and be ready for any potential service interruptions.”
Among the recent disasters that have impacted Texas cable operators and systems: this year’s historic winter freeze Uri and Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Both were significant, record-setting catastrophes. Read how the Texas cable industry responded to Hurricane Harvey, from restoring service to donating more than a million dollars to aid community recovery.
For 2021, forecasters are predicting a slightly above-average hurricane season (which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30), with 18 named storms, four of which are expected to be major. While Texas typically doesn’t see activity until later in the summer, as of July 1 there already have been five named storms.
Here are some helpful tips, compiled by Comcast, to help you prepare for a catastrophe, whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, flood, wildfire or one of the other nine types of natural disasters seen in Texas:
- Download your cable provider’s free mobile app or apps. These may allow you to obtain outage notifications or to report service interruptions, view live TV and weather radar to stay up-to-date on quickly changing conditions, access Wi-Fi hotspots and communicate with family and friends.
- Plug TVs, modems and cable boxes into a surge protector to protect them from damage from lightning or a sudden power outage.
- Keep your phone dry and batteries charged.
- Program all your emergency contact numbers and emails into your phone.
- Forward your home phone number to your mobile number so you receive all emergency calls.
- Text instead of calling during the storm – texts require fewer network resources.
- Check on the availability of cable Wi-Fi hot spots. Following a storm, cable operators sometimes open their hot spots to the public, no subscription required.
How does cable prepare? In addition to reviewing existing disaster response plans, cable operators often put extra crews on standby in a safe area near the expected disaster location, so that they are ready to go in and start repairs as soon as danger has passed. Sometimes in the case of major catastrophes, such as Hurricane Harvey, cable crews come in from other states. Note that often local cable employees themselves live in impacted areas and must deal with their own recovery in addition to assisting their customers.
Both during and after the storm, cable technicians work closely with local emergency responders to keep critical public safety communications networks operating.
Once the storm ends, customers should practice patience – emergency management procedures dictate that electricity is the first service to be restored (video, phone and broadband won’t work without it anyway). Cable operators must receive clearance from local emergency management officials that it is safe to proceed before crews can begin to assess damage, make repairs and restore any service disruptions. Priority is generally given to public facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.