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Verizon SpreadFrom his office Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s co-chairman, saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without delay he called for the immediate evacuation of the company’s 500 employees that worked in 2 World Trade Center. Seidenberg, had averted a much broader tragedy beyond the painful loss of three Genuity and three Verizon workers that day. Facing one of the biggest national disasters in his own backyard, Seidenberg’s first concern was the safety of the employees.

To understand the immediate challenge to Verizon, it’s necessary to grasp the role of 140 West Street. One of the largest U.S. switching facilities, 140 West Street supports one of the most intensive telecommunications infrastructures in the world. The collapse of 7 World Trade Center substantially damaged the West Street building, leaving more than 200,000 residents and small businesses without service.

“Our building at 140 West Street contained 4 switches which had the capacity to serve a city the size of Cincinnati. The damage to our building was severe”, said Paul Crotty, President of New York Verizon. “Altogether, we lost ten cellular towers, along with 300,000 voice lines and 3.6 million data circuits—affecting 14,000 businesses and 200,000 residential customers,” said Crotty. “We deployed seven ‘cells on wheels’ and 16 temporary cell sites almost immediately on 9/11. This allowed us to replace wireless service that was disrupted by damaged cell sites. Within one week we had 150% of the capacity in Lower Manhattan we had on September 10.”

“My first thoughts were for the employees I had working at West St., which is across the street from the World Trade Center buildings,” said DeMauro, the Verizon Regional President. “Once it became clear that employees had been safely evacuated, we turned our attention to the issue of losing air pressure and physical damage to more than 500 massive copper and fiber-optic cables that either originate or are routed through our West St. building.

DeMauro and his team have primary responsibility for the cables, wires and fiber-optic links that connect customers to the switching centers that route voice and data traffic, otherwise known as the “outside” portion of the network.

To keep those subterranean cables dry and working, the company forces air pressure into the cables around the clock. With electrical power knocked out as the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, the compressors that forced air into the cables stopped doing their job when backup power wore down or they were overwhelmed by water flooding into the company’s West St. switching center and nearby manholes.
“In the following days, the people in our Real Estate/Buildings Department did an incredible job of cleaning up some of the damage, restoring some temporary power and improving air quality—all of which allowed us to begin assessing the cable damage,” said DeMauro.
Of the more than 500 cables containing millions of data circuits and over 300,000 local voice lines served by the West St. building, DeMauro’s team identified about 300 cables that were either damaged or rendered inoperable because they were wet. He credited on-site Verizon Director Beth Drohan and her team for their tireless and creative efforts to assess and begin restoral efforts.

“Ultimately, we built an entirely new air compressor system from scratch a few blocks away from 140 West St., along with a new network of ducts leading to our cables,” DeMauro said. “We bypassed the crushed air pipes and essentially duplicated the damaged air pressure system. This had never been done.”

“Once the air pressure was back on, we knew we had more cables that were crushed as a result of the collapsed buildings. We began temporarily bypassing those cables by running new cables out of the windows of our West St. building, along streets to the north and back around the scene of the attack to the east. We then re-spliced those cables to the original cable in areas where the cables weren’t damaged.”
Another problem was a steel beam from one of the World Trade Center buildings that fell, he estimated, from at least the 60th floor. The beam pierced the underground vault where many of the cables running into and out of 140 West St. were spliced into the switching systems.
“The beam was like a huge javelin that sliced through the wires,” DeMauro said. “We’ve spent thousands of hours in that vault re-connecting those splices one by one, following the beam and water damage.”

A remaining challenge for DeMauro and his team was the area where the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. The rubble, still smoldering in some places, had prevented company technicians from getting into at least 15 manholes to assess and repair cables that run beneath ground zero.

“I know it sounds obvious, but there’s no way anything I’ve seen in my 32 years compares with this,” DeMauro said. “But it has been wonderful the way Verizon’s employees have risen to the occasion, when faced with a situation no one could have even imagined. At no point during this entire recovery effort did anyone approach me and say something couldn’t be done.”

For David Rosenzweig, a 29-year Verizon employee and the company’s Vice-President for Network Operations in New York and New England, the scene at the West St. facility resembled a war zone. The building was still standing, but it had received heavy damage following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers across the street and the #7 World Trade Center building next door.

By the afternoon of Sept. 11, he knew things would get far worse than the physical damage to the building. Commercial power was gone and the emergency backup power to run the four computerized call switching systems and other data transmission equipment in the building would be depleted shortly due to massive flooding in the structure’s basement.

In short, the man responsible for the “inside” or switching portion of Verizon’s network in the Northeast was faced with quickly restoring switching systems that routed over six million phone calls and billions of bits of data each business day. Added to the tension was the fact that the eyes of the world were on the company and its efforts to reopen the New York Stock Exchange and restore the area’s local phone service as quickly as possible.

“This was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, including damage from devastating hurricanes and massive snow and ice storms,” he said. “Once I knew my team members were safely evacuated, I was consumed with one thought: there’s no way this team was going to lose this building and its switching capability. We were going to do whatever was needed to bring it back and bring it back quickly for our customers. “There’s been a lot of talk about the new war that resulted from this terrorist act, but in a way this was our little war—we wanted to breathe life back into these switching systems.”

Rosenzweig and his on-site team, aided by local Verizon Director Jim McLaughlin, began tackling the power issue the next day. But first they faced an enormous cleanup job before they could even begin assessing damage to the four switching systems. Heavy dust and debris that cascaded in through broken windows and holes in the building had coated the very sensitive computer equipment.

“Our Real Estate/Building group worked with us around the clock to clean the computers, stop the flooding in the basement and restore the air quality,” Rosenzweig said. “By the weekend, we could see that for the most part the switching systems were intact, but we needed to quickly bring in portable generators and air conditioning units to keep the systems cool.”

By late Sunday, Rosenzweig says he experienced a moment he will never forget. “We had begun turning on power from portable generators and testing some of the switches when I made the first phone call from West St. since the attack,” he said. “The entire Verizon team was focused on getting the New York Stock Exchange going the following morning, but just hearing that first phone call from West St. go through filled me with emotions. It was sheer joy. I tried to make that first call to my wife, but I couldn’t get through, so I called one of my co-workers on 50th Street. My feelings run from sadness to profound pride in the work this team has accomplished in such a short time.”
Since New York City is probably the most intensely competitive telecommunications market in the world, Verizon’s 140 West St. facility in lower Manhattan serves many Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) as well as long-distance companies. Following the attacks, the company’s wholesale team also quickly went into high gear to serve the needs of those wholesale customers.

The team’s first task was to find a new site for their wholesale support center, which was also located in the heavily damaged West St. building. “We moved the functions of those centers to various sites around the northeast within 24 hours so that we could continue to serve our wholesale customers around the clock,” said Verizon’s Tom Maguire, Vice President of wholesale in New York. Once initial cleanup of the building was underway, most of the CLECs had access to their equipment and backup electrical power. The Verizon wholesale team also quickly installed high-capacity links to at least 40 temporary cell sites for various wireless carriers whose facilities were damaged during the attacks.

“One of the most remarkable things I’ve witnessed during this effort has been the spirit of cooperation between these competitive companies and Verizon,” Maguire said. “As we were working to help them, the CLECs were constantly offering Verizon whatever resources they could make available to help us in our recovery effort.”

Another challenge was to reach customers “who tend to fall between the cracks,” says Jeffrey Sampson, manager of Verizon Community Affairs. A “communications blitz” featuring posters in English, Chinese and Spanish directed customers without service to two recovery centers and several satellite locations open 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., seven days a week. The door-to-door teams targeted dozens of low-income and senior housing units, whose residents might have less access to wireless phones. Verizon managers put up fliers on lobby bulletin boards, contacted churches, and spoke with tenant associations and agencies serving people with disabilities.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers that illustrate Verizon’s efforts:
• 4,000,000 voice and data circuits were constructed, reconstructed or re-routed in Manhattan and parts of New York within the first week of the restoration process.
• 230,000,000 calls were transmitted through Verizon’s network in the New York City area each day for at least a week following the attack. This estimate is at least twice the normal.
• 21 temporary cellular towers were erected by Verizon Wireless, to greatly expand capacity in the weeks following the attacks.
• 220 free wireless pay phones on trailers were deployed throughout lower Manhattan. Customers made some 80,000 free calls from these phones each day.
• 18 new SONET (synchronous optical network) fiber-optic rings were built to provide additional capacity and to ensure reliable service.
• 3,000 Verizon technicians and managers were deployed in southern Manhattan to restore phone service to residents and businesses. Some 800 of these workers were solely dedicated to serving Verizon’s wholesale customers.
• 4,000 curbside pay phones throughout Manhattan offered free calls during the first week following the attacks. Cus- tomers placed more than 22,000 minutes worth of calls from these phones in just one day.
• 5,000 free wireless phones were provided by Verizon Wire- less to New York’s emergency workers and many businesses.
Community Outreach:
• Verizon Foundation and employees contributed $20 million to the Sept. 11 Relief Fund.
• Distributed more than 26,000 free pre-paid calling cards to emergency service workers, national guardsman, NYC Hous- ing Project residents, constituents of local elected officials, community organizations and Recovery Center staff.
• Distributed more than 5,000 free wireless phones with timed minutes of-use to residence customers, homeless shelters,human ser vice providers, seniors and people with disabilities.
• Handled more than 5,000 calls to our Recovery Information 800
numbers, which were available 24/7, in (English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin) and TTY tones.
• Established several mobile outreach stations in lobbies of housing
projects and senior centers to manage cell phone distribution and
service.
• Conducted 15-20 town hall meetings with block associations, tenant groups, seniors and business organizations.
• Held briefing sessions with Community Boards, elected officials, PSC staffers, Consumer Advisory Panel members and other external stakeholders to report on recovery efforts.
• Distributed 30 cell phones to homeless shelters that housed home less and/or displaced residents.
• Distributed more than 5,000 wireless phones under a special rate plan to residence (1,633), low-income Life Line (1,111) and busi- ness (2,305) customers.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell, commenting on the dedication of Verizon employees, said it made him “immensely proud to be in the communications field.”

 

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