Mobile carriers respond to California wildfires

Mobile stations and other services in Napa help evacuees get online and get in touch with loved ones.

During an emergency, communication is a crucial key to staying safe and informed.

A phone call, text or Twitter update could alert of danger in time to save a life, or help locate loved ones when everything is in chaos. Unfortunately, natural disasters can make it very difficult to communicate when its needed the most.

The California wildfires have ripped through entire neighborhoods across the state, and have been especially devastating in wine country. 

Nearly 80 cell phone towers were destroyed by flames in the wine country region, making it very for those impacted by the fires to communicate, according to the Washington Post.

Many mobile customers are experiencing issues with their connection because of damaged fiber optic lines. However, cell phone carrier companies are moving quickly to restore service and provide relief to the wildfire victims.

T-Mobile-

Service has been restored to most areas affected by the wildfires, according to T-Mobile. The company has deployed emergency equipment such as portable generators, fuel trucks and portable cell sites that can provide temporary service.

T-Mobile also set up trucks stocked with water, respiratory masks, snacks and charging stations for those in need. The company is also promoting "Text to Give", where customers can make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross and have it charged to their cell phone bills.

Sprint-

Sprint is waiving text, call and data overage fees for Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile customers in areas affected by the wildfires through Oct. 15.

Customers on Unlimited plans will continue to have the same unlimited benefits.

“Some customers might be experiencing service issues due to damaged fiber resulting from the fires,” said Suehyun “Johan” Chung, Sprint’s Regional President for Northern California in a press statement. “Our team is in the area and on standby awaiting clearance to restore service as quickly and safely as possible.” 

The Sprint team has restored service to many sites knocked out by the fire, but the carrier is still working on a few more sites in the Napa area that are still inaccessible due to mandatory evacuation orders, according to Sprint spokesperson, John Votava.

Sprint sent portable cell sites to Santa Rosa to help alleviate high call volumes in that area.

Verizon-

For customers in qualified Northern California counties, Verizon is waiving domestic talk, text and data charges through Oct. 15. The company initially announced relief from Oct. 10 to Oct. 12 but said Thursday there would be a three-day expansion. 

Verizon is also giving prepaid customers an extra 3 GB for talk, text and service.

The company's network is operating at about 98 percent of normal performance in impacted areas as of Thursday afternoon, according to Verizon spokesperson, Heidi Flato.

"We've been working around the clock to restore service throughout the fire-impacted area and add capacity in the most densely populated areas." Flato said via email.

Verizon deployed a mobile cell site to provide coverage to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds evacuation shelter in Santa Rosa. There is also a Disaster Response Trailer at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Napa with internet access, laptop computers, phones and a wireless charging station.

Verizon has also provided additional wireless connectivity to support emergency personnel at the Sonoma County emergency operations center (EOC), Sonoma County Sheriff’s office, Napa County Sherriff’s office, the Cal Fire base camp in Napa and the City of Santa Rosa EOC.

AT&T-

Cell phone service has been restored to more than 99 percent of fire-impacted areas as of Thursday, according to AT&T spokesperson, Leland Kim.

However, there are still areas that are either inaccessible or too dangerous to approach, including certain areas north of Santa Rosa.

The AT&T disaster response teams have deployed mobile cell sites, equipment and generators to support emergency responders and customers. 

AT&T teams are at the following shelters today with wifi, charging solutions, phones for use, account support, live news via DirecTV Now, snacks/water: 
 
Napa: Napa Valley College, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Hwy
Santa Rosa: Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave
Santa Rosa: Veterans Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave
Sonoma: Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennet Valley Road
Yuba City: Yuba Sutter Fairgrounds, 442 Franklin Ave 
 
AT&T is also issuing credits and waiving any additional charges from Oct. 9 through Oct. 14. to provide unlimited data, voice and text for AT&T wireless customers and unlimited voice and text to AT&T prepaid customers in affected areas of California.

The carrier is also extending payment dates for affected AT&T prepaid customers with voice and text service through Oct. 14.

The relief applies to customers with billing addresses in Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Solano, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

AT&T customers with landlines can visit an AT&T retail location to get a free AT&T PREPAID device while supplies lasts and $25 pin that can be used for $0.25 per min calling and $0.20 per text.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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