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From his office Ivan Seidenberg, Verizons co-chairman, saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without delay he called for the immediate evacuation of the companys 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, Seidenbergs first concern was the safety of the employees.
To understand the immediate challenge to Verizon, its 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 circuitsaffecting 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 companys
West St. switching center and nearby manholes.
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 werent damaged.
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 theres no way anything Ive seen in my 32 years compares with this, DeMauro said. But it has been wonderful the way Verizons 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 couldnt be done.
For David Rosenzweig, a 29-year Verizon employee and the companys 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 structures basement.
In short, the man responsible for the inside or switching portion of Verizons 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 areas local phone service as quickly as possible.
This was unlike anything Ive 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: theres 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. Theres been a lot of talk about the new war that resulted from this terrorist act, but in a way this was our little warwe 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 couldnt 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.
The teams 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 Verizons 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 Ive 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.
Heres a look at some of the numbers that illustrate Verizons
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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