Verizon simulates disaster near operations center

The company's mobile command center restores communications to affected building

By , IDG News Service |  Networking, disaster recovery, Verizon

Members of the Verizon Major Emergency Response Incident Team prepare to enter a building to check for chlorine contamination during a drill in Cockeysville, Maryland.

Image Credit: IDG News Service

It was only a drill, but Verizon Communications' emergency response team brought in its serious equipment for a hazardous materials test in Cockeysville, Maryland, Monday and Tuesday.

In the scenario, a truck carrying chlorine collided with a light-rail train within a few hundred yards of Verizon's Cockeysville operations center, which provides nationwide customer support for the company's enterprise and federal government customers, dispatches field technicians to Verizon customers in the Baltimore area, and houses support staff for Verizon.

In a real disaster, all 791 employees of the Verizon facility would have to evacuate their building, with the Verizon Major Emergency Response Incident Team's (MERIT's) mobile command center, a 51-foot truck trailer, restoring communications at the site. The three-room command center includes 11 workstations, a conference room and a communications center.

The command center, primarily used by Verizon to restore its communications services during a disaster, features a 40-kilowatt generator, four UHF radios, two VHF radios, three DirecTV receivers, a weather station, an amateur radio, a video recorder, two video streaming devices, four computer servers, four satellite modems, two emergency communications scanners and three network switches.

That's just a partial list of the trailer's features. The trailer is a "completely autonomous unit," said David Hyde, disaster recovery team lead for Verizon.

When Verizon arrives at a disaster site, it wants to avoid taxing the local infrastructure, said Dick Price, chief business continuity officer at Verizon. Thus, the trailer has a generator and several communications systems, he said.

While the mission of the command center trailer is primarily to restore Verizon networks, it also can provide Internet and radio communications for local emergency response agencies, Price said. The trailer also has electrical outlets on its exterior so emergency response workers and other people can recharge their laptops and other equipment, and Verizon is working on a way for the trailer to become a cellular transmission site, he added.

"We want to give back to the community as much as we can while we're out there fixing our network," Price said.

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