NEW JERSEY: HURRICANE SANDY devastated part of the East Coast of the United States earlier this year after it ripped through the Caribbean and mid-Atlantic.
The world watched as New York City felt the power of the Hurricane during the 13 day long catastrophe that began at the end of October, which killed more than 100 people, crippled transit, destroyed entire communities, caused billions of dollars' worth of infrastructure damage and cut power to over eight million homes.
It's an impressive achievement, then, that during that time one of the country's leading network carriers, AT&T suffered no network problems or loss of communications. It's even more remarkable because the firm's Global Network Operations Centre (GNOC) - which is responsible for monitoring the network and keeping it up - is located in the middle of the Hurricane's path in New Jersey.
To find out how the firm rode out the storm, The INQUIRER spoke with AT&T's director of Network Disaster Recovery Robert Desiato shortly after his deployment to cope with Sandy last week when we were taken on an exclusive tour of the firm's GNOC in New Jersey.
Desiato discussed the lengths the firm went to during Hurricane Sandy and how these precautions are part of a much larger strategy that has taken years of development and experience of similar natural disasters to ensure that during these times, customers don't run into network problems and aren't left without telephony.
Desiato made it clear that these actions are in accordance to AT&T's GNOC mission statement: "To provide a seamless customer application service quality by preventing, detecting, correcting failures in the network before they impact the service and customer."
AT&T had a five day warning that the Hurricane was going to hit the East coast, so it had time to put a specific storm plan in place, with steps taken so the mobile network recovery team could get close to the recovery area.
"We can track pretty close to where the Hurricane is going to hit," Desiato said. "[But] when a disaster like the Sandy storm hits, it's my job to run towards it and into the disaster zone."
Desiato explained that his job involves the role of looking out for any changes to the GNOC's BAU status, which stands for "Business As Usual". In an event such as Sandy, the GNOC will pull up a management control bridge (MCB) ordering the dispatch of disaster recovery.
Disaster recovery consists of the deployment of cellular communications on wheels (COWs) and cells on light trucks (COLTs) for expanded capacity and to help to restore communications for victims in a specific area during the disaster.
"We designed the trailers so that the stuff in the central office is exactly the same equipment you have on the trailers that we pull around. We can pull these trailers anywhere. Put them in a parking lot and that parking lot becomes our central office," Desiato said.